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Pope changes teaching to oppose death penalty in all cases

Vatican at odds with Donald Trump, who advocates capital punishment for drug dealers, terrorists and ‘perverts’

Pope Francis has said the death penalty is “inadmissible” and that the Catholic church would work for its abolition across the world.

Capital punishment was “an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”, Francis said in a change to Catholic teaching.

The church previously viewed the death penalty, carried out by a legitimate authority after a fair trial, as an “appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good”, according to a Vatican statement.

But, it added, there was an increasing awareness today that the dignity of the person was not lost even after “the commission of very serious crimes”.

More effective systems of detention could ensure the protection of citizens without depriving “the guilty of the possibility of redemption”.

Pope Francis has previously spoken out against the death penalty, saying last year it “heavily wounds human dignity” and is an inhuman measure. Capital punishment was “in itself, contrary to the Gospel”, he added.

But on Thursday he went further by making a formal change to the universal catechism, or church teaching.

The move puts the pope at odds with Donald Trump, who in March advocated the death penalty for drug dealers. The US president has also called for terrorists and “perverts” to be put to death.

More than 2,700 prisoners are on death row in the US. Capital punishment is legal in 31 US states.

According to Amnesty International, 1,032 people were executed in 23 countries in 2016. Four countries account for 87% of global executions.

Francis has made prison ministry a central part of his papacy. On almost all foreign trips, he has visited prisoners to offer words of solidarity and hope, and he has invited prisoners to the Vatican.


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