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ZENIT - Photo by Deborah Castellano Lubov

FEATURE: Abolishing Death Penalty Seen as Increasingly Achievable Worldwide

Politicians, Prelates Gather at Sant’Egidio’s ‘A World Without Death Penalty’ Determined to End Capital Punishment

Experts and foreign ministers, politicians and prelates gathered to undertake the battle of abolishing the death penalty worldwide.

Sunday, Pope Francis called again for an end to the death penalty, drawing attention to a conference on this issue held Monday, titled “A World Without Death Penalty.” It was organized by the Catholic lay Sant’Egidio Community.

ZENIT was at the IX International Congress of the Ministers of Justice held in the Chamber of Deputies of the Italian Parliament in Rome.

President of the Community of Saint Egidio, Marco Impagliazzo, began by thanking the Holy Father for his strong appeal Sunday to abolish the death penalty and they replayed a video of Francis’ words, which earned much applause from all present, including various ministers and ambassadors.

Many of the ministers and ambassadors thanked Pope Francis for having provided leadership on this matter.

The Minister of Justice and Correction Services in South Africa, Michael Masulha, specifically thanked him for helping “to steer the world out of this practice which negates human rights and work towards demonstrating mercy and humanity.” He also praised Sant’ Egidio for their “relentless activism” for abolishing this.

In his intervention, he also spoke about his experiences in his nation, underscoring that when it had the most liberal death penalty policy, crimes were not reduced.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and president of the so-called C9, the Pope’s special advisory council, stressed how “clear” and “insistent” the Pope’s messages on capital punishment have been. He also recalled how the Pope clearly explained his opposition to the death penalty during his Apostolic Visit to the United States in September, as he reaffirmed his conviction in defending all life from conception to natural death.

The German cardinal also noted the similar position taken by Francis’ predecessors, underscoring the developments under John Paul II to combat capital punishment, which were also carried forward under the pontificate of Benedict XVI.

Jean- Louis Ville, the European Commission’s  head of Unit Geneder and Human Rights and Interim Directorate for Human Development and Migration, said, “the European Union is at the forefront of abolishing the death penalty worldwide.”

“All European member states are strongly against the death penalty in all circumstances,” he stressed, “both in war and at peace time.”

Why a violation?

Peter Huber, judge of Germany’s Constitutional Court, echoed how the death penalty is unjust, but said he wanted to explain what make’s it truly such.

“What makes the death penalty a violation of human dignity?” he explored.

Huber then explained to those gathered that in penal law, there are three objectives for placing criminal sanctions.

The first, he said, seeks to educate the person and influence the person to become better. The second, he noted, is “general prevention” and seeks to deter people from committing crimes. The third, he added, is “retribution,” and seeks some sort of revenge.

He then asked in what category the death penalty could fall, and concluded only that of deterrence or revenge.

“If the state uses the life of a human being for deterrence or revenge, then this degrades the individual to become an objective of state policies,” and “a means of political purposes.”

President of the Social Affairs Commission of Italy’s Chamber of Deputies, Mario Marazziti, expressed his satisfaction that this long journey toward abolishing the death penalty is now becoming achievable.

He also claimed that word choice for referring to the death penalty shows the shame that those who still perform this act feel, in that they refer to capital punishment in terms of “executions,” rather than “homicide.”

Others from abolitionist and retentionist countries discussed the situations in their countries to recount the problems with capital punishment, why it’s ineffective, and why it’s important to eliminate it.

Others who intervened included Italy’s Minister of Justice and Keeper of the Seals, Andrea Orlando; Italy’s First President at the Cassazione Supreme Court, Giovanni Sanzio; Special Advisor to the Secretary General of the Francophone, Jacques Bilodeau; Rwanda’s Minister of Justice, Johnston Busingye; Sri Lanka’s Minister of Justice and Buddha Sasana, Wiljeyadasa Rajapakshe; Tanny Taher of Community of Sant’Egidio in Indonesia; Cambodia’s Minister of Justice; and Sierra Leone’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara.


On ZENIT’s Web page

FEATURE: Cardinal Marx Says Pope’s Pronouncements on Capital Punishment Are ‘Clear’ and ‘Insistent:’

About Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is a Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in four languages). She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, at times from the papal flight, and has done television and radio commentary, including for Vatican Radio and BBC. She is a contributor to National Catholic Register, UK Catholic Herald, Our Sunday Visitor, Inside the Vatican, and other Catholic news outlets. She has also collaborated with the Vatican in various projects, including an internship at the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and is a collaborator with NBC Universal, NBC News, Euronews, and EWTN. For 'The Other Francis': or

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