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Wed Jun 29 16:31:47 SAST 2016

You shall not kill means you shall not kill: pope

Reuters | 22 February, 2016 00:17
"The commandment 'You shall not kill' has absolute value and applies to both the innocent and the guilty," he told the crowd. File photo
Image by: TONY GENTILE / REUTERS

Pope Francis has called for the worldwide abolition of the death penalty, saying the commandment "You shall not kill" was absolute and equally valid for the guilty as for the innocent.

Using some of his strongest words against capital punishment, he called on Catholic politicians worldwide to make "a courageous and exemplary gesture" by seeking a moratorium on executions during the Church's Holy Year, which ends in November.

"I appeal to the consciences of those who govern to reach an international consensus to abolish the death penalty," he told tens of thousands of people in St Peter's Square on Sunday.

"The commandment 'You shall not kill' has absolute value and applies to both the innocent and the guilty," he told the crowd.

The 1.2billion-member Catholic Church has allowed the death penalty in extreme cases for centuries, but the position began to change under the late Pope John Paul II, who died in 2005.

Francis said there was now "a growing opposition to the death penalty even for the legitimate defence of society" because modern means existed to "efficiently repress crime without definitively denying the person who committed it the possibility of rehabilitating themselves".

He made the comments in support of an international conference against the death penalty starting today in Rome, organised by the Sant'Egidio Community, a worldwide Catholic peace and justice group.

Francis, who has visited many jails since becoming pope nearly three years ago - the latest in Mexico last week - called for better prison conditions.

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