The U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay of execution Sept. 23 for convicted murderer Troy Davis.

The stay was issued only two hours before Davis’s scheduled death by lethal injection.

The Supreme Court will decide Monday whether to hear Davis’s appeal; if not the stay will end automatically and the state of Georgia can proceed with the execution.

Davis, 39, was convicted of murdering Savannah, Ga., policeman Mark MacPhail in 1989.

But seven of the nine witnesses who testified against him subsequently recanted their testimony and four of the witnesses now say another man committed the murder.

The Vatican appealed last year for clemency in the case.

“In the name of Pope Benedict XVI, I am respectfully asking you to commute Troy’s sentence to life in prison without parole,” Msgr. Martin Krebs, charge d’affaires for the apostolic nunciature in Washington, wrote in a letter to Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that in modern countries like the United States the cases in which capital punishment is justified “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent” (no. 2267).

— Tom McFeely