Considers Possible U.N. Sanction of Moratorium

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 21, 2007 ( In a 13-page report, the Fides news agency of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples takes a look at the death penalty, calling it “cruel and unnecessary.”

“Love Your Enemies: How States Take Lives” includes an overview of the methods that nations have used in recent years to inflict death, a list of those countries that allow the death penalty. The report also includes an interview with a professor from the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan and one with a spokesman for the Community of Sant’Egidio.

The document raised questions regarding the use of the death penalty on minors and detailed information on the innocent who are erroneously condemned to death.

A section on 2006 statistics said that “a total 128 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice, whereas 69 countries still maintain capital punishment in force, but executions are carried out only in very few countries.”

“In 2006, 91% of all reported executions happened in six countries; Kuwait has the highest number of executions per head in the world, followed by Iran,” the report stated.

Eventual abolition

According to the Fides agency, “thanks to international mobilization in recent years, of individuals, nongovernmental organizations and certain governments — with an increase in the number of abolitionist countries — in 2007 the United Nations could decide to adopt a resolution to sanction a universal moratorium on the death penalty, in view of its eventual abolition.”

The document refers to words from Pope John Paul II, including a speech during his visit to the United States on Jan. 27, 1999, where he said: “Modern society has the means to protect itself without denying criminals the opportunity to redeem themselves. The death penalty is cruel and unnecessary and this is true even for someone who has done something very wrong.”

The report also includes a reference to a United States bishops’ conference 2005 report: “When the state in our names and with our taxes ends a human life despite having nonlethal alternatives, it suggests that society can overcome violence with violence. The use of the death penalty ought to be abandoned not only for what it does to those who are executed, but for what it does to all of society.”


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