‘Death penalty inadmissable’: Said Pope Francis

After an audience with Pope Francis earlier this year, and following his approval, the Vatican’s CDF says it has made changes to the CCC on the death penalty according to which capital punishment is inadmissible.

Pope Francis has approved a new revision of paragraph number 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, according to which “a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state,”  thus “the death penalty is inadmissible”:

The decision was announced by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in a ‘Letter to the Bishops’ dated 1 August and signed by the Prefect, Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria.


The Death Penalty

2267. Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.

Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes.  In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state.  Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption.

Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”,and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide”.


According to the previous text of paragraph 2267, the Church did not exclude recourse to the death penalty in “very rare, if not practically nonexistent” circumstances:

2267. Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically nonexistent."

Revision in Continuity with Preceding Magisterium

In the Letter to the Bishops  Cardinal Ladaria explained that the revision of n. 2267 of the CCC   “expresses an authentic development of doctrine that is not in contradiction with the prior teachings of the Magisterium” and said “these teachings, in fact, can be explained in the light of the primary responsibility of the public authority to protect the common good in a social context in which the penal sanctions were understood differently, and had developed in an environment in which it was more difficult to guarantee that the criminal could not repeat his crime”.

Pope John Paul Ii’s Appeal to Abolish Death Penalty

Ladaria recalled that John Paul II asked that  the teaching on the death penalty be reformulated to better reflect the development of the doctrine that centers on the clearer awareness of the Church for the respect due to every human life affirming that  “Not even a murderer loses his personal dignity, and God himself pledges to guarantee this.” Ladaria said that in many occasions John Paul II intervened for the elimination of capital punishment describing it as “cruel and unnecessary.

Pope Benedict XVI

In the letter Cardinal Ladaria also recalled Benedict XVI who appealed for “the attention of society’s leaders to the need to make every effort to eliminate the death penalty” and encouraged  “political and legislative initiatives being promoted in a growing number of countries to eliminate the death penalty and to continue the substantive progress made in conforming penal law both to the human dignity of prisoners and the effective maintenance of public order.”

Responsibility of Authorities to Defend the Life of Citizens

The new revision of number 2267 of CCC  approved by Pope Francis, Ladaria said, !situates itself in continuity with the preceding Magisterium while bringing forth a coherent development of Catholic doctrine” taking into account the new understanding of penal sanctions applied by the modern State”.

Its new revision, he continued, “desires to give energy to a movement towards a decisive commitment to favor a mentality that recognizes the dignity of every human life and, in respectful dialogue with civil authorities, to encourage the creation of conditions that allow for the elimination of the death penalty where it is still in effect”.

Indian Church, Indonesian Muslims, Iran mourn Cardinal Tauran

The 74-year old cardinal died on July 5 at Hartford, United States, where he was undergoing treatment for Parkinson’s disease. 

Cardinal Tauran’s funeral service is scheduled for July 12 at Rome’s St. Peter’s Basilica. Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the dean of the College of Cardinal will preside over the funeral Mass, at the end of which Pope Francis will preside over the valedictory ceremony.

The former Vatican Secretary for Relations with States equivalent to foreign minister under St. Pope John Paul II,  was appointed by Pope as Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church, who takes charge of the affairs of the Catholic Church during the vacancy between pontificates.

The veteran diplomat who served under 3 popes, was the senior cardinal who announced the election of Pope Francis on March 13, 2013.


“In him the world has lost a great leader who could build bridges and a diplomat of rare quality who could speak the truth with charity, grace and compassion. He was much appreciated by State and Government officials around the world,” wrote Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias, president of the Catholic bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) in a statement on July 7.

On a personal note, Cardinal Gracias said besides being a “brother” Cardinal Tauran was “even more a personal friend” with whom he could share many of his “concerns about the Church and about peace and harmony in the world.”

“He was a special friend of India and in my various meetings with him, he manifested to me his deep love for our country,” noted Cardinal Gracias who is also president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI), the body of India’s Latin-rite bishops, and president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) as well.

The Indian cardinal noted that “Cardinal Tauran visited India several times and also most memorably led the Vatican delegation for inter- religious dialogue with very senior representatives of Hinduism at a two day Colloquium in Mumbai, a Colloquium that was a major step forward in fostering inter-religious dialogue in India.”  “He knew how respect every religion and understood the dignity and values that different expressions of faith contributed to the wellbeing in the world.”

“In the death of Cardinal Tauran not simply the Church in India and the world has lost a great leader, but India itself has lost one of its great admirers and lovers of our religions. We deeply mourn his death and pray to God to reward him for all his endeavours on earth and especially his efforts to bring people of all faiths, religions and cultures together.”


Indonesian Muslims are also mourning the late cardinal, saying he did much to develop interfaith ties during his visit to the country nine years ago.

In November 2009, Cardinal Tauran visited Indonesia where he met Muslim leaders and visited Istiqlal Mosque, the largest mosque in Southeast Asia, located next to Assumption about  Cathedral Church in Jakarta.

Azumardy, a respected Muslim intellectual who recently chaired a Jakarta summit of Muslim scholars from around the world, described Cardinal Tauran's death a big loss for global interreligious dialogue.

"He played an important role in building bridges, tolerance and mutual respect between the Catholic Church, Muslims and those of other religions," he told UCANEWS on July 9.

Azra, the rector of Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University of Jakarta hoped his successor will “continue his work to build interfaith relations to realize harmony and peace."

Dahnil Anzar Simanjuntak, chairman of the youth wing of Muhammmadiyah, Indonesia's second-largest Islamic organization, also expressed sadness at the death of Cardinal Tauran.

"We need leaders like a Tauran who can foster interreligious ties, who can provide solutions when religions face conflict," he said. "His visit to Indonesia improved interreligious relations, particularly between Muslims and the Catholic Church," Simanjuntak added. 


Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also condoled the death of Cardinal Tauran, recalling his efforts in fostering understanding among faiths.

“This erudite man, who was regarded as one the Holy See’s renowned scientific and religious figures, made every effort to boost solidarity among followers of all divine faiths and promote dialogue among religions without any religious bias, nescience,” wrote Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in a condolence message on Monday to his counterpart Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States.

“He was one of the far-sighted men who, by holding bilateral and international meetings, managed to establish and continuous dialogue among leaders of different faiths, especially Muslim and Christian scholars,” Zarif wrote,  invoking God Almighty to bestow peace upon the soul of Cardinal Tauran.