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Church Catechism to Reflect Opposition to Death Penalty

February 01, 1997|From Reuters

VATICAN CITY — The next edition of the Roman Catholic Church's catechism will reflect Pope John Paul II's near-total opposition to capital punishment, a senior Vatican cardinal said.

The catechism, a code of Catholic belief last updated in 1992, will state that cases in which capital punishment is acceptable have become extremely rare, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said.

Throughout history, the church has held that the death penalty was sometimes permissible, particularly in times of war or widespread civil disorder, for the common good of society.

But in his 1995 encyclical "The Gospel of Life," the pope said advances in modern society's penal system had made such cases "practically nonexistent."

Ratzinger, head of the Catholic Church's doctrinal office, said the next edition of the catechism, due out later this year, will take the encyclical into account, bringing the church the closest it has come to calling for a ban on capital punishment.

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