‘Thou shalt not kill’: Pope Francis calls for worldwide ban on death penalty

Pope Francis gestures as he leaves at the end of a Jubilee audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, February 20, 2016. © Tony Gentile
In a heartfelt plea, Pope Francis has called for the death penalty to be abolished across the globe. The pontiff said the holy commandment, “Thou shalt not kill”, should be applied to both the innocent and guilty.

"I appeal to the consciences of those who govern to reach an international consensus to abolish the death penalty," the 79-year-old Pope said, addressing tens of thousands of people in St. Peter's Square on Sunday.

Even the criminal “keeps the inviolable right to life,” said Pope Francis.

The Argentinian pontiff urged Catholic leaders all over the world to work for a moratorium on executions during the Church's current Holy Year, also dubbed Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, which ends in November.

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“The commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill’ has absolute value, and concerns both the innocent and the guilty,” and even criminals “maintain the inviolable right to life, the gift of God," Pope Francis said.

According to the Catholic leader, there was "a growing opposition to the death penalty even for the legitimate defense of society."

"A sign of hope is the development, in public opinion, of a growing opposition to the death penalty. Indeed, modern societies have the ability to deal with crime without removing permanently the one who has committed it a chance to redeem himself,” said the Pope.

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Currently, at least 30 countries, including the US, China and India use the death penalty. The annual report by Amnesty International calls for an end to capital punishment, saying it “breaches two essential human rights: the right to life and the right to live free from torture.”

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As of July 2015, 101 countries had abolished the capital punishment for all crimes, according to the human rights group. However, Saudi Arabia executed more people in 2015 than it did in 2014. At the beginning of 2016, the country beheaded 47 people, including a prominent cleric.