In an historic address before a joint session of the United States Congress, Pope Francis called for the abolition of capital punishment. Linking to the broader theme of protecting human life and dignity, he said, “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.” He commended the United States bishops for their commitment to abolition. He went on to say, “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.” This was the first time a pope had addressed the U.S. Congress. Pope Francis has made several previous statements against the death penalty, including an address to the International Association on Penal Law and a letter to the International Commission Against the Death Penalty.

(M. Berman, “Pope Francis tells Congress ‘every life is sacred,’ says the death penalty should be abolished,” Washington Post, September 24, 2015; S. Dinan, “Pope proposes ‘golden rule’ of politics, demands end to death penalty,” The Washington Times, September 24, 2015; “Read the full text of Pope Francis’ address to US Congress,” Catholic News Agency, September 24, 2015.) See New Voices and Religion. Photo: Associated Press/Carolyn Kaster.