Death Penalty Won't Defeat Terrorism, Says John Paul II

Urges an Emphasis on Respect for Life

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 19, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II says that terrorism is not combated with the death penalty but, on the contrary, by the promotion of respect for the dignity of the human person.

The Pope expressed this today when receiving the credentials of the new ambassador of the Philippines to the Holy See, Leonida Vera, until now the president of Lever Properties Corporation and a member of the Executive Council of Caritas-Manila.

In his English-language address, the Holy Father appealed to all parties in the Philippines “to end the terrorism which continues to cause so much suffering to the civilian population, and to embrace the path of dialogue which alone will enable the people of the region to create a society that guarantees justice, peace and harmony for all.”

“Accordingly, it is essential that the state continue to promote dialogue in society, fostering mutual understanding and appreciation among the various religions,” the Pope continued.

“This process is most effective when all levels of public education include curricular components that help people to recognize the value of tolerance and encourage them to strive towards a culture based on authentic peace and justice,” he said.

“We can together eliminate the social and cultural causes of terrorism by teaching the greatness and dignity of the human person, and by spreading a clearer sense of the oneness of the human family,” the Holy Father added.

After appealing for respect of the Philippine Constitution, “which explicitly recognizes the sanctity of family life and the protection of the unborn from the moment of conception,” the Pope reiterated his opposition to the death penalty.

“Aware that the issue of capital punishment and its use has again become an important topic in your national debate, I would reiterate that the ends of justice in today’s world seem better served by not resorting to the death penalty,” he said.

“Modern society in fact has the means of effectively suppressing crime by rendering criminals harmless without definitively denying them the chance to reform,” he said, repeating a teaching he articulated in his encyclical “Evangelium Vitae.”

He added: “While civil societies have a duty to be just, they also have an obligation to be merciful.”

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