By Hai Do
02 August, 2018

The leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, has changed Church teaching about the death sentence.

The new teaching says that the earlier policy was outdated and that the church should work to end the death penalty.

The Vatican said the Pope approved a change Thursday to the Catechism of the Catholic Church — the collection of the Church's official teaching.

FILE - Pope Francis delivers a speech after a meeting with Patriarchs of the churches of the Middle East at the St. Nicholas Basilica in Bari, southern Italy July 7, 2018. (REUTERS/Tony Gentile/File Photo)
FILE - Pope Francis delivers a speech after a meeting with Patriarchs of the churches of the Middle East at the St. Nicholas Basilica in Bari, southern Italy July 7, 2018. (REUTERS/Tony Gentile/File Photo)

In the past, the catechism said the Church does not object to the death penalty, in its words, "If this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor."

The new teaching, published on August 2, said "the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person."

The death penalty is no longer used in most of Europe and South America. But it is still legal punishment in the United States and in several countries in Asia, Africa and the Mideast.

This week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey could bring back the death sentence. Turkey had ended the punishment in 2004 in an effort to join the European Union.

Pope Francis has long opposed the death penalty. On almost every of his foreign trips, the Pope has visited prisoners to offer words of support and hope. He still stays in touch with Argentine prisoners who he attended to during his years as archbishop of Buenos Aires.

The Pope announced his decision to change Church teaching on the death penalty last October on the 25th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism.

At that 2017 ceremony, the Pope said the death penalty violates the Gospel and compared it to the voluntary killing of a human life.

The human rights group, Amnesty International, has long campaigned against the death penalty. The organization called the new teaching an "important step forward." It also praised the Roman Catholic Church for its commitment to end the death penalty.

I'm Caty Weaver.

Hai Do adapted this story for Learning English based on AP and other news reports. Mario Ritter was the editor.

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Words in This Story

penalty –n. a punishment for breaking a rule or law

inviolability –n. too important to be ignored or treated with disrespect

dignity –n. the quality of being worthy of honor or respect

commitment –n. a promise to do or give something