Pope Benedict XVI encouraged countries around the world to end the death penalty as a legal sanction at his Nov. 30 general audience.
Addressing a group of pilgrims gathered in Rome for an international conference on the controversial topic, the Pope said he hopes that their deliberations “will encourage the political and legislative initiatives being promoted in a growing number of countries to eliminate the death penalty.”
The conference was organized by the Italian-based Sant’Egidio Community under the theme of “No Justice Without Life.” The Pope told them that he applauded “the substantive progress made in conforming penal law both to the human dignity of prisoners and the effective maintenance of public order.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that the traditional teaching of the Church “does not exclude” recourse to the death penalty when it is “the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor.” It adds, however, that today such cases are “very rare, if not practically non-existent.”
Recent figures suggest that around a third of the world’s countries use the death penalty as part of their legal code. In the United States, there are currently 34 states where the death penalty is legal.