Here is a translation of the text of the Video-Message that the Holy Father Francis sent, on the occasion of the opening session, to the organizers and participants in the 7th World Congress against the Death Penalty, promoted by the NGO ECPM (Together Against the Death Penalty), in collaboration with the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, being held in the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium from February 27 to March 2, 2019.
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The Holy Father’s Video-Message
I greet the organizers and participants in the 7th World Congress Against the Death Penalty, being held in Brussels.
Human life is a gift we have received, the most important and primary gift, the source of all the other gifts and of all the other rights. And, as such, it needs to be protected. Moreover, for a believer, the human being has been created in the image and likeness of God. However, both for believers and non-believers, each life is good and its dignity must be protected without exceptions.
Hence, capital punishment implies a grave violation of the right to life that every person has. Although it’s true that human societies and communities must often face very grave crimes, which attempt against the common good and the security of people, it’s no less true that today there are other means to expiate the harm caused, and the systems of detention are increasingly effective to protect society from the evil that some persons can occasion. On the other hand, the conviction must never be abandoned of also offering the guilty one of crimes the possibility to repent.
For this very reason, it is a positive sign that that there are increasingly more countries that wager for life and that no longer use the death penalty, or have eliminated it completely from their criminal legislation.
The Church has always defended life, and her vision on the death penalty has matured. Therefore, I desired that the Catechism of the Catholic Church be modified on this point. For a long time, the death penalty was taken into account as an appropriate response to the gravity of some crimes and also to protect the common good. However, the dignity of a person is not lost even when he/she has committed the worst of crimes. The life of no one can be taken away and deprive him/her of the opportunity to be able to embrace the community again that he/she wounded and made suffer.
The objective of the abolition of the death penalty at the world level is a courageous affirmation of the principle of the dignity of the human person and of the conviction that the human race can address the crime, and also reject the evil, offering the condemned the possibility and the time to repair the damage committed, to think about his/her action and thus be able to change his/her life, at least interiorly.
I accompany you with my prayer and I encourage you in your works and deliberations, as well as the governments and all those that have responsibilities in their countries so that the necessary steps are taken towards the total abolition of the death penalty. It’s up to us to recognize in each person his/her dignity and to work so that no more lives are eliminated, but that they are won for the good of the whole society. Thank you very much.
© Libreria Editrice Vatican[Original text: Spanish] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]