Year of Mercy, Thoughts on the Death Penalty

By Sr. Margaret Hoffman, SND
Justice and Peace Coordinator

“Mercy” in my Biblical Concordance compares the Hebrew translation of “hesed” as more far reaching, long lasting, comprehensive, and more personal than our understanding of the word. It means to connect, create solidarity among families, communities, nations and ultimately with God.

Pope Francis is calling for the worldwide abolition of the death penalty. He says that the commandment “You shall not kill” is absolute and equally valid for the guilty as for the innocent. Speaking in the context of this Year of Mercy, the Pope appealed to “the consciences of those who govern to reach an international consensus to abolish the death penalty.” The Catholic Church has allowed the death penalty in extreme cases for centuries, but opposition to the death penalty is rising as modern means exist now to “efficiently repress crime without denying to criminals the possibility of rehabilitating themselves.”

This Lenten time is the right moment to take this issue to our prayer as we reflect on Jesus, in the midst of His own suffering, pardoning the repentant man crucified with him.

For personal reflection:  In what ways am I called to recognize my own need for mercy?

We invite your thoughts on this topic.

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