While addressing the priests of the Diocese of Rome on Thursday, Pope Francis also responded to a question about married priests, underscoring that the Church has great concern for priests who leave ministry to get married and later want to return, but that on the other hand he does not know if the Church can find a way for this to happen.
The bishop of Rome traditionally meets with the priests of his diocese during Lent, and the Feb. 19 encounter took place at the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall.
The Holy See press office delivered eight minutes of audio from the two-hour meeting, but has yet to release an official summary or transcription: thus the only source of information is the testimony of priests who took part.
The theme this year was homiletics — the art of preaching — and to prepare for it, Pope Francis had the text of his 2005 address to the Congregation for Divine Worship sent to the priests.
The text — Pope Francis revealed — was a bit criticized by Cardinal Meisner and by Cardinal Ratzinger. “Ratzinger told me that the text lacked one thing on the homily, a sense of being before God. He was right: I did not speak about that.”
The pope’s address was followed by a series of questions from the priests.
According to L’Avvenire, the -ope also addressed the issued of married priests, following a question posed by Father Giovanni Cereti.
L’Avvenire wrote that Father Cereti mentioned how in the Eastern Catholic Churches, married men may be ordained priests, unlike the typical situation in the Latin rite.
Father Julio Lavin de Tezanos Pinto, deputy parish priest of the Roman parish of San Romano Martyr , told CNA that in fact “the conversation dealt with some specific cases … they were talking about priests who were dispensed from priesthood in order to get married: they actually got married, and they now wish to come back.”
Father Lavin then recounted that the pope “responded that the question touched a wound, that he welcomed the question and that he touched this plague, and that he was not going to archive such a question … which meant that he wanted to express an understanding of the problem… probably, the phrase ‘I would not store this question in an archive’ was misinterpreted as ‘it is part of my agenda.’”
Father Walter Insero, spokesman of the Diocese of Rome, told CNA “the pope said this is a plague of the church, and he intended to say that the issue of the possibility of marriage for priests may cause pain to the people involved.”
“When the pope said the issue was not going to be stored in an archive, he wanted to say that he will take the issue into account … but he also added that he does not know if the church will be able to find a way for these people.”
Pope Francis also revealed that Feb. 10 he said Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae chapel together with seven priests who were celebrating the 50th anniversary of their priesthood, and that five priests who had left ministry to marry attended the Mass.
Father Insero added, “there many other important issues the Pope addressed during his meeting with the Roman clergy.”
“Pope Francis said it is important that a priest begs for the gift of tears because, he said, if the priest has not the ability to cry anymore, he cannot be on the side of people, to bear their sufferings, to accompany them in their life,” recounted Fr. Insero.
The spokesman of the Rome diocese said Pope Francis reflection “started from his 2005 address to the Congregation for Divine Worship… he focused on the importance of preaching… he stressed that the false prophet may be recognized by the fact that he speaks his own words, while the true prophet speaks God’s words… and so he explained that it is important to make space for the Word of God.”
“Pope Francis also higlighted that preparing a homily is a path. He said that you can’t prepare a homily in one hour, the very same day you give the homily … you should bear the homily with prayer, so that your point of view becomes what the Spirit tells people.”
A priest also asked the pope about how to help people to discover the beauty of liturgy, and the pope, Father Insero said, praised Benedict XVI’s commitment to liturgy.
“He said Benedict XVI had liberalized the extraordinary rite, and that he did this because he is a man of communion, and wanted to keep the door open for everyone. But he also added that the Church remains in the ordinary rite, and that we have to foster that rite, to explain its beauty to people,” said Fr. Insero.
Pope Francis also recommended two books for priests to read: “Proclaiming God’s Message: A study in the theology of preaching,” a 1963 volume by Father Domenico Grasso, SJ; and “A Theology of Proclamation,” a 1958 work of Father Hugo Rahner, SJ.
Congress should reaffirm the principle that government “should not force anyone to stop offering or covering much-needed legitimate health care” because of a conscientious objection to abortion or other procedures, said Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of Boston and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore. In a February 13 letter to the House of Representatives, the bishops, who chair the Committee on Pro-Life Activities and the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), urged legislators to support and co-sponsor the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (H.R. 940).
“It is increasingly obvious that Congress needs to act to protect conscientious objection to the taking of innocent human life,” wrote Cardinal O’Malley and Archbishop Lori. “Recently California’s Department of Managed Health Care began demanding that all health plans under its jurisdiction include elective abortions, including late-term abortions. This mandate has no exemption for religious or moral objections, and is being enforced against religious universities, schools and even churches. Similar proposals have emerged in Washington and other states.”
The bishops noted that the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA) section of the bill would give firmer legal basis to the Weldon amendment, part of every Labor/HHS appropriations bill since 2004, which forbids governmental bodies receiving federal funds to discriminate against those who decline to take part in abortion or abortion coverage. They noted that President Obama has expressed support for the Weldon amendment.
In addition, the bishops said that H.R. 940 would incorporate respect for rights of conscience into the Affordable Care Act, allowing those who purchase, provide and sponsor health coverage under the Act to opt out of abortion or other specific items that violate their moral and religious convictions. Finally the bill would recognize a private right of action for victims of discrimination under either provision, so they can go to court to defend their rights.
“We strongly urge you to support and co-sponsor the Health Care Conscience Rights Act,” the bishops concluded.
The full text of the letter is available online: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/upload/Cardinal-O-Malley-Archbishop-Lori-Urge-Congress-to-Support-HR-940-Health-Care-Conscience-Rights-Act.pdf
In his homily Thursday Pope Francis said that every day we are faced with choices between good and evil, and stressed that God is always there to help us when the right decision is hard to make.
“The choice is between God and other gods who do not have the power to give us anything other than trivial, pithy little things that pass,” the pope told Mass attendees Feb. 19.
He recognized that “it is not easy” to make the right choice, and encouraged those present to stop and ask themselves “What is my lifestyle like? Which path am I on?”
Francis launched his reflection by referencing God’s words to Moses in the first reading, taken from Deuteronomy, in which God says “Today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and doom. Obey the commandments of the Lord, Your God, which I enjoin on you today.”
It is the same choice that each person is faced with on a daily basis, he said, noting that it is often easier to follow false gods.
“We always have this habit of following the herd, like everyone else. Everyone and no one,” he said, however in today’s liturgy the Church gives us the good advice to “stop and choose!”
He encouraged attendees to ask themselves whether or not they are following the Lord or if they are on another path. Alongside this question, he said, are deeper ones surrounding our relationship with God and our families, including our parents, siblings, children and spouses.
Pope Francis then turned to Luke’s Gospel, in which Jesus tells his disciples that there is no profit in gaining the world, but losing one’s soul at the same time.
“The search for personal success, for possessions, without a thought for the Lord, for one’s family is always the wrong path to choose,” he observed, and said that the two questions which constantly need to be asked regard the status of our relationship with God and with our family.
A person can work hard to gain everything and yet still fail, Francis said in a Catholic News Agency report, explaining that even if monuments of the person are built and their portrait painted, they are “a failure” because they “did not choose well between life and death.”
The pope also questioned those present as to what pace they live their lives at, and whether or not they allow time to reflect on the things they do.
A “little bit of courage” is needed every time we make decisions, he said, and pointed to Psalm 1’s exhortation to put our hope in the Lord as a piece of a good advice on the matter.
“When the Lord gives us this advice — ‘Stop! Choose today, choose’ — he doesn’t abandon us. He is with us and wants to help us. But we have to trust Him; we have to have faith in Him,” Francis said.
He concluded his homily by telling those present to stop and think about the decisions they make, and to remember that the Lord is always there beside us, offering his help.
In his Ash Wednesday homily, Pope Francis said the time of Lent is a call to leave hypocrisy behind and reconcile with God through fasting, charity and prayerful tears before our merciful Father.
“I ask you a question: do I cry? Does the Pope cry? Do cardinals cry? Do bishops cry? Do consecrated men and women cry? Do priests cry?” the Pope said during his Feb. 18 Ash Wednesday Mass.
Pope Francis focused during the Mass on the idea of “weeping in prayer.”
In keeping with papal tradition for Ash Wednesday, Pope Francis began the Lenten liturgy with a procession, during which he walked from Rome’s Sant’Anselmo church to the church of Santa Sabina on Aventine Hill.
He immediately turned to the words of the prophet Joel, who calls the people to penance and conversion due to a locus invasion plaguing the land.
Joel tells the people to beg the Lord for deliverance with prayer, fasting and the confession of their sins, since God is the only one who can save them from the “scourge.”
The prophet’s call to “return to me with all your heart” is an invitation to an interior conversion that is not “superficial or transient,” but rather signals a journey involving the most intimate part of ourselves, the pope said in a Catholic News Agency report.
In his prophesy, Joel focuses largely on the prayer of priests, saying it should be “accompanied by tears,” Francis noted, and encouraged faithful to pray for the gift of tears during Lent “so as to make our prayer and journey of conversion ever more authentic and without hypocrisy.”
Francis turned to the day’s Gospel reading from Matthew, in which the apostle recounts Jesus’ reinterpretation of the traditional works of piety put forth in the Mosaic law: prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
Over the course of time, “these requirements have been eroded by the rust of external formalism, or were even changed into a sign of social superiority,” the pope said.
However, in the Gospel, Jesus warns his disciples against common temptations surrounding these pious works when he tells them to “perform righteous deeds” in secret rather than in front of others, and not to “blow a trumpet” when the give alms.
Jesus also cautions his disciples not to pray in front of others so as to attract attention, and tells them not to “look gloomy” when they fast, lest they be like the hypocrites.
Hypocrites, Francis said, “don’t know how to cry. They have forgotten how to cry. They don’t ask for the gift of tears.”
Pope Francis noted that when we perform a good work, there is often an almost “instinctive” reaction to look for respect and admiration for it. Jesus’ invitation during Lent is instead to let go of our desire for satisfaction when performing good works, and trust in the reward we will receive in heaven.
“Dear brothers and sisters, the Lord does not ever tire of having mercy on us, and wants to offer us his forgiveness still one more time, inviting us to return to him with a new heart, purified from evil, so as to take part in his joy,” the pope said.
But welcoming this invitation to conversion takes more than just our human effort, he said, explaining that reconciliation with God can only be achieved thanks to the mercy and love of the Father.
Only in Christ, who died for our sins even though he himself was sinless, can we ourselves become just, Francis said, asking those present, “Please, let’s stop. Let’s pause a little and let ourselves be reconciled with God.”
Pope Francis closed his homily by noting that as Lent begins, the phrases “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return,” and “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel” are said along with the distribution of the ashes.
Both of these lines are a reminder that as human beings, we are limited and are sinners always in need of penance and conversion, Francis noted.
The call to conversion, he said, “is therefore a push to return, as did the son of the parable, to the arms of God and to cry in those arms, to trust him and to trust in him.”
In this week’s general audience Pope Francis spoke on the role of siblings in family life, saying the fraternity we learn from them teaches us how to overcome barriers and leads to greater freedom.
“With Jesus, this bond of brotherhood expands to overcome any difference of nation, language, culture or religion,” the Pope told pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square Feb. 18.
There is no greater compliment than to say of another “he is like a brother to me, or she is like a sister” he said, explaining that without the value of fraternity, “the freedom and equality achieved by many people become full of individualism and conformity and personal interest too.”
Pope Francis offered his reflections as part of his ongoing catechesis on the family. After spending the past 3 weeks looking at the role of both mothers and fathers, he turned his gaze to the importance of brothers and sisters.
To grow up in a family alongside other children is a “profound human experience” that reaches its fulfillment in Jesus Christ, who became our brother and made us all children of God the Father, he said in a Catholic News Agency report.
Fraternity was an essential value for the People of God, Francis noted, and pointed to how this brotherhood is even praised in scripture when the author of Psalm 132 says “How good and how pleasant it is, when brothers dwell together as one!”
However the rupture in fraternity which takes place when Cain murders his brother Abel “opens a deep chasm in man,” the pope said, and God’s question to Cain “Where is your brother?” has not ceased to resonate throughout history.
Contrary to Cain’s response “am I my brother’s keeper?” Francis explained that we are indeed our brother’s keeper within the human family, and God’s question proves it.
He said that it is within the family were we first learn how to open ourselves to others and become good brothers and sisters. What we learn from them then goes on to benefit society as a whole.
As the first place we learn to live a fraternal coexistence, our relationship with our siblings serves as “an ideal for any relationship within society and between peoples,” the Pope said, noting that this bond reaches its fulfillment with Jesus.
Francis explained that it is Jesus who gives us the grace to see each person as a brother or sister and to reconcile differences and divisions. Jesus, he said, also offers to us the promise of true freedom and equality, which are maintained by this brotherhood.
The virtue of brotherhood shines even brighter “when the family has a weaker, sick or disabled brother or sister, and the others care for them with such affection,” the Pope observed.
He said that “having a brother, a sister, who loves you is a powerful, priceless, irreplaceable experience,” and explained that the Christian community is also called to care for the poor and needy in society with the same tenderness and affection.
Francis closed his address by praying that our “often impersonal societies” learn how to foster this spirit of fraternity, and asked that families around the world would come to appreciate “the great blessing of God found in our young” who both love and are loved as brothers and sisters.
Before concluding the pope asked that all of the faithful present pause for a moment of silence to remember their own brothers and sisters.
“With this prayer we have brought all of our brothers and sisters here in our hearts to this square for a blessing,” he said, and went on to greet pilgrims present from various countries around the world.
Pope Francis also asked for special prayers for the 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians who were beheaded by ISIS militants over the weekend, “for the mere fact of being Christians.”
He prayed for all who have died or been wounded in various conflicts, especially refugees, and offered particular prayers for peace in the Middle East, North Africa and the Ukraine.
In addition, the pope called on the international community to work together in finding peaceful solutions to the current crisis in Libya.
Catholic Relief Services’ Rice Bowl program aims to continue its forty-year Lenten tradition of supporting hunger relief– and one of its past beneficiaries is now a spokesman for the project.
“Many years ago when I was a hungry boy in Ghana and living without parents or family, the smell of food lured me to the village school. There I was nourished and lifted off the path of likely death,” Thomas Awiapo said Jan. 16.
“That school food program existed because of the little box we call rice bowl.”
Awiapo was orphaned in his home country of Ghana before he was 10 years old. He credits a Catholic Relief Services-supported lunch program he discovered at age 12 with changing his life, and the lives of his children.
“You can call me the poster child for CRS Rice Bowl, but we’d be closer to the truth if you called my children your poster children,” he said.
“They have never experienced hunger in their lifetime, and today they attend university, high school and secondary schools without missing a beat.”
Awiapo now works for Catholic Relief Services and trains community leaders throughout Ghana and is presently touring the U.S. to speak about the rice bowl program.
The mainstay of the program is a small cardboard box. Families and individuals, as well as parishes and schools, put in a small amount of money each day of Lent to help hunger relief around the world.
At present there are an unprecedented number of hunger emergencies in Syria, Iraq, Central African Republic, and South Sudan, where war has caused interruptions to food supplies, unemployment, and homelessness, forcing millions to live as refugees. Another food emergency is in West Africa, where the Ebola outbreak has been a major disruption to normal life.
Since its creation in 1975, CRS Rice Bowl has raised $250 million to fight hunger, the relief agency reports to Catholic News Agency.
“CRS Rice Bowl offers families, schools and faith communities an opportunity to put their faith into action while learning about the lives and struggles of our brothers and sisters around the world,” said Beth Martin, the program’s director. “We’re encouraging people to reflect on what 40 years of CRS Rice Bowl has accomplished and challenging them to put one dollar for every day of Lent in their rice bowl.”
Last year the program added a new app to help people track their donations. The Rice Bowl app, available in English and Spanish, now has new Lenten reflections, integrated Twitter support, and improved tracking for Lenten sacrifices.
Other new material for 2015’s rice bowl includes the “What is Lent?” video series. It will provide viewers with Lenten reflections from Catholics such as Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, and CRS president Carolyn Woo.
The CRS Rice Bowl Global Kitchen Video Series will feature television personality and cook Father Leo Patalinghug teaching how to cook five meatless recipes from the five countries in focus this year: Tanzania, Nicaragua, Niger, Lebanon, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Catholic Relief Services has also prepared solidarity reflections to provide prayers and activities, for youth groups, high school classes, and young adults.
Pope Francis offered his Tuesday morning Mass for the repose of the souls of the 21 Egyptian Christians killed by ISIS militants, praying that man learn to reject his evil temptations, and choose what is good.
The pope Feb. 17 prayed for “our brother Copts, whose throats were slit for the sole reason of being Christian, that the Lord welcome them as martyrs, for their families, (and) for my brother Tawadros, who is suffering greatly.”
His comments came after the Islamic state released a video Sunday purporting to show the grisly beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt. Yesterday Francis called Coptic Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria Tawadros II to offer his condolences and solidarity.
Pope Francis’ morning liturgy is a sign of union with the Coptic Church, who is holding funeral celebrations for the victims today.
His personal secretary, Abuna Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, is also a Coptic Catholic, and was present for the Pope’s Mass in the chapel of the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse.
Francis initiated his reflections by turning to the Bible passage in Genesis that speaks of God’s wrath in the face of man’s wickedness before the great flood. He lamented that man often seems more powerful than God due to his capacity to destroy what God has created.
The Bible itself provides examples, such as Sodom and Gomorrah and the Tower of Babel, which prove there is “an evil that lurks in the depths of the heart.”
Although saying this might seem a bit negative, the Pope stressed that “this is the truth,” and referred to how Cain killed his brother Abel, thus destroying fraternity.
“This is where wars begin. Jealousy, envy, so much greed for power. Yes, this sounds negative, but it is realistic,” he said in a Catholic News Agency report, noting one only needs to pick up a newspaper to see the evidence, since “more than 90 percent of the news is of destruction.”
Jesus, the pope said, reminds us that there is evil in the human heart, and that man has the tendency to think he can do whatever he wants.
“We are capable of destruction, that’s the problem,” Francis said, and spoke of the arms trade, noting that there are countries who sell weapons, wage war and continue to sell to the country they are warring with, so the fighting continues.
While some might claim they are just doing business, the pope asked that if this is the case, is their business one “of death?”
The evil we see around us doesn’t come from outside, but from inside of ourselves, he said, and warned that gossip and slander are also forms of evil aimed at destroying another.
However, despite man’s capacity to do evil and to destroy, he has the Holy Spirit to help him choose what is good in the little things, Francis noted.
Mother Theresa is a modern example of man’s ability to do good, he said, explaining that we all are capable of choosing either good or evil within our own families and parish communities.
Because families are even capable of destroying their own children and can often prevent them from maturing or growing in freedom, the Pope stressed the need to meditate, pray and discuss things with one another, so as not to fall into “this evil that destroys everything.”
Jesus gives us the strength to do this, he said, explaining that the Lord today wants to tell us “Remember. Remember Me, I shed my blood for you; remember Me, I have saved you, I have saved you all.”
“I have the strength to accompany you on the journey of life, not on the path of evil, but on the path of goodness, of doing good to others; not the path of destruction, but the path that builds,” the pope said, noting that these are Jesus’ words to us.
He concluded his homily by praying that before beginning the liturgical season of Lent, which begins tomorrow on Ash Wednesday, the Lord give us the grace to always choose the “right path,” and help us not to be misled by temptations to destroy.
As homeless men and women line up under the massive arms of Saint Peter’s colonnade waiting to take advantage of the Vatican’s newly-christened showers and barbershop, volunteers who assist them say they are deeply moved by their encounter with a population often rejected by society.
“Initially when they offered me this (job) I thought I would find myself confronted with grouchy, perhaps mean people,” said volunteer barber Danielle Mancuso.
“Instead, I discovered a truly tremendous humanity.”
“You see these poor people out in the middle of the street, discarded. Then, you speak to them, and they’re human,” he said, recounting his first day.
Officially inaugurated on Feb. 16, the facilities provide the opportunity for homeless individuals to have their hair cut each Monday — a day when barber shops in Italy are traditionally closed — by volunteer barbers. Meanwhile, the shower services will be offered daily, with the exception of Wednesday due to the large crowds which attend the weekly general audience.
“I cut my hair, took a shower, beard, everything. It’s wonderful!” 51-year-old Gregorio from Poland, who’s been living in Rome for 13 years, told CNA.
Construction began in November on new showers and bathrooms under the colonnades of St. Peter’s Square.
Many barbers have volunteered with enthusiasm, including two barbers from the national Italian organization that transports the sick to Lourdes, France and other international shrines (UNITALSI). Other volunteers are finishing their final year in barber school.
“It’s been a great lesson for me,” said Andrea Valeriano, an UNITALSI volunteer. “Everyone has waited (their turn) calmly. And I’ve seen a lot solidarity among them.”
Papal almoner Archbishop Konrad Krajewski spearheaded the reconstruction of St. Peter’s square bathrooms to include the shower and barbershop facilities, which have witnessed a substantial response since their opening.
The Polish bishop is charged with the dual responsibility of carrying out acts of charity for the poor and raising the money to fund them. When the archbishop was appointed, Pope Francis urged him not to stay at his desk but rather to be an active worker for the benefit of the poor.
Vatican Insider reported that Archbishop Krajewski received his inspiration for the showers after taking a homeless man to dinner in order to celebrate his birthday. The man, who turned 50, told the archbishop that finding food in the city is easy, but staying clean was not.
On Sunday Pope Francis mourned the 21 Egyptian Christians beheaded by the Islamic State, calling them martyrs that “belong to all Christians.”
“The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard,” the pope said. “Their only words were: ‘Jesus, help me!’”
Pope Francis made these off-the-cuff remarks in his native Spanish on Sunday, one day after the release of a video from the self-proclaimed Islamic State purporting to show the grisly beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt.
“It makes no difference whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Protestants”, the pontiff continued. “They are Christians! Their blood is one and the same. Their blood confesses Christ.”
They were killed “only because they confessed Christ,” the Pope said. “I ask that we encourage each another to go forward with this ecumenism which is giving us strength, the ecumenism of blood. The martyrs belong to all Christians.”
Pope Francis telephoned Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Tawadros II, on Monday afternoon to show his deep participation in the sufferings of the Coptic Church following the executions. He assured him of his prayers, and said that tomorrow, the day celebrating the funerals of the victims, he will unite himself spiritually to the prayers and sufferings of the Coptic Church during the morning Eucharistic celebration.
On Monday, Egypt’s military launched airstrikes against Libya in retaliation for the deaths of the Egyptian Christians, according to the New York Times.
The beheadings occurred weeks after some 20 Coptic Christians had gone missing near the coastal city of Surt, also known as Sirte, the report continues.
Many Egyptians, including Copts, travel to Libya seeking employment opportunities.
This is not the first time Egyptian Christians have been targeted in Libya. Last month, an Egyptian Christian teen and her parents were found dead in Surt.
Libyan authorities discovered the bodies of seven Egyptian Christians last February near militant-held parts of Benghazi.
Rev. John Chalmers, moderator for the Church of Scotland, was present for Pope Francis’ comments Sunday. In an interview with CNA shortly after his audience with the Pope, Rev. Chalmers said Pope Francis is a man of humility and prayer who “is feeling for those Coptic Christians who have been martyred.”
“In reflecting on that, it is clear that whatever denomination that Christians come from they are one,” he said.
Throughout his pontificate, Pope Francis has frequently condemned violence against Christians in the Middle East. During his Urbi et Orbi address on Christmas Day, 2014, he called for peace in Libya, as well as in Nigeria, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia has welcomed Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf’s decision on Friday to effectively establish a moratorium on the death penalty in the state due to the flawed nature of the system.
The moratorium “will remain in effect until the governor has received and reviewed the forthcoming report of the Pennsylvania Task Force and Advisory Commission on Capital Punishment,” Wolf’s office announced Feb. 13.
“This decision is based on a flawed system that has been proven to be an endless cycle of court proceedings as well as ineffective, unjust, and expensive,” Wolf stated. “Since the reinstatement of the death penalty, 150 people have been exonerated from death row nationwide, including six men in Pennsylvania.”
Archbishop Chaput praised Wolf for his decision, saying, “I’m very grateful to Governor Wolf for choosing to take a deeper look into these studies and I pray we can find a better way to punish those who are guilty of these crimes.”
“Turning away from capital punishment does not diminish our support for the families of murder victims. They bear a terrible burden of grief and they rightly demand justice,” Archbishop Chaput continued in a Catholic News Agency report.
“But killing the guilty does not honor the dead nor does it ennoble the living. When we take a guilty person’s life we only add to the violence in an already violent culture and we demean our own dignity in the process.”
The advisory commission will study the effectiveness of capital punishment, and Wolf said the moratorium would be in place until “all concerns are addressed satisfactorily.”
Wolf, a Democrat, took office on Jan. 20. This morning he granted a temporary reprieve to Terrance Williams, who was to have been executed March 4.
As each death row inmate’s execution is scheduled, Wolf will grant a reprieve, but not a commutation, his office stated. More than 180 persons are on the state’s death row.
“Today’s action comes after significant consideration and reflection,” said Wolf. “This moratorium is in no way an expression of sympathy for the guilty on death row, all of whom have been convicted of committing heinous crimes.”
Archbishop Chaput had also praised a Philadelphia judge in 2012, when he stayed Williams’ scheduled execution, sending the case to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
In his Sept. 10, 2012 column, the archbishop noted that even convicted murderers “retain their God-given dignity as human beings” and that “we don’t need to kill people to protect society or punish the guilty.” He added that “we need to end the death penalty now” saying it does not heal or redress wounds, “because only forgiveness can do that.”
Several US states have moved away from capital punishment in recent years. In total, 18 states have abolished capital punishment.