Pope Francis made an impassioned plea Thursday for the U.S. to abolish the death penalty in his address to Congress.
“I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes,” he said.
Bishops and priests in the U.S. recently called for the death penalty to be abolished, a push Francis said he supports, mainly because a “just” punishment should “never” forget “hope.”
Here are his full comments below:
“The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development. This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes. Recently my brother bishops here in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty. Not only do I support them, but I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.”
In the U.S., capital punishment remains legal in 31 states, and as of July 2015, 3,002 inmates were awaiting execution across the country.
The pope arrived in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, kicking off a six-day East Coast trip. He will travel to New York on Thursday evening and will spend the weekend in Philadelphia.
Thursday’s speech also stressed the need for immediate action on climate change, one of the key themes of his U.S. visit.