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Pope Calls On Christians To Abolish Death Penalty

Pope Francis called on "all Christians and people of goodwill" to work toward abolishing the death penalty, as he addressed a crowd of tourists and pilgrims in St. Peter's Square on Sunday.
Alessandra Tarantino

"The commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' has absolute value and concerns both the innocent and the guilty," Pope Francis said Sunday, urging that the death penalty be abolished.

Addressing a crowd of the faithful who were gathered in St. Peter's Square on Sunday, Pope Francis said, "All Christians and people of goodwill are called today to work not only for the abolition of the death penalty, but also in order to improve prison conditions, in respect for human dignity of persons deprived of liberty."

Speaking the day before an international convention for the abolition of the death penalty is set to begin in Rome, Francis appealed to the conscience of world leaders to work toward an international consensus to abolish capital punishment.

From Rome, NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports:

"He also proposed that Catholic politicians make what he called a courageous and exemplary gesture and ensure that no convicted inmate is executed during the church's Holy Year of Mercy, which ends on Nov. 20.

"Francis has repeatedly stressed the position upheld by his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, that there is no justification in modern society for the death penalty,"

Pope Francis' remarks about the death penalty and prison conditions came after delivering the Angelus at noon Sunday.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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