Arizona Bishops Appeal for End to Death Penalty

Protest "State-Sanctioned Vengeance"

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PHOENIX, Arizona, MARCH 29, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The bishops of Arizona are calling for an abolishment of the death penalty, noting that this type of vengeance goes against Gospel values.

The prelates of the Arizona Catholic Conference released a statement in light of today's planned execution of Eric John King, who was convicted of killing two people in a 1989 convenience store robbery. Another man, Daniel Wayne Cook, is scheduled for execution next week.

The statement was signed by Bishop James Wall of Gallup, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix, Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo Nevares of Phoenix, and Byzantine Bishop Gerald Dino of the Eparchy of Van Nuys.

The bishops expressed "compassion for those who are victims of brutal crimes and for their families," noting that "the effects of murder, in particular, are truly awful."

Nonetheless, they underlined their opposition to the use of the death penalty, affirming, "We firmly hold that capital punishment is state-sanctioned vengeance that is not in keeping with the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

The prelates continued, "We hold that capital punishment -- when other means are available to keep society safe from dangerous criminals -- denies the intrinsic dignity and sanctity of human life."

They added that the use of the death penalty "is actually a contribution to a culture of death."

The statement recalled that "Pope John Paul II, an ardent defender of human life on the world stage, articulated that the use of capital punishment should be limited only to extremely rare situations where it is necessary to defend society."

It added, "Executions in our state do not defend anyone, and are therefore wrong."

The prelates concluded by calling for an end to "the unnecessary violence of the death penalty."