Vatican City, 22 February 2016 (VIS) – After today's Angelus prayer, Pope Francis spoke about the international conference “For a World Without the Death Penalty,” organised by the Sant’Egidio Community, which begins in Rome tomorrow, and expressed his hope that it may inspire fresh efforts towards the abolition of the death penalty.
The Pope observed that the increasingly strong public opposition to the death penalty, even as an instrument of legitimate social defence, is a sign of hope. "Indeed, modern societies are able to effectively control crime without definitively removing from the criminal the possibility of redeeming himself. The issue lies in the context of a perspective on penal justice that increasingly conforms to the dignity of man and God’s design for man and for society. And also penal justice open to the hope of being reintegrated in society. The command “thou shalt not kill” has absolute value and refers to the guilty as well as the innocent.
"The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy is a good opportunity to promote in the world an increasingly mature respect for life and the dignity of each person. Because even a criminal has the inviolable right to life, a gift of God. I appeal to the consciences of those who govern, so that an international consensus may be reached for the abolition of the death penalty. I propose to those among them who are Catholic to make an exemplary gesture of courage: that the death penalty not be applied in this Holy Year of Mercy".
"All Christians and men and women of good will are called today to work not only for the abolition of the death penalty, but also to improve conditions in prisons, in respect for human dignity and the dignity of those deprived of freedom".
The Pope also mentioned next Thursday's Via Crucis through the streets of Rome, organised by the Pope Juan XXIII Foundation, founded by the priest Oreste Benzi, in support of women who are victims of human trafficking, and to pray for them.
Before concluding the Pope reiterated that Lent is a good time to undertake a path of conversion, based on mercy. "For this, I have decided to give to you here in the Square a 'spiritual medicine' called 'Misericordina'. We did this once before, but this one is better, it is 'Misericordina-Plus': a box with a rosary and an image of the Merciful Jesus. Volunteers, including the poor, the homeless, refugees and also religious, will now distribute them. Receive this gift as a spiritual aid to help spread forgiveness and fraternity, especially in this year of mercy".