"I think if there was ever a man who deserves to be executed, it´s probably Timothy McVeigh," Vice President Dick Cheney declared on "Fox News Sunday.´´
McVeigh, 33, is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection May 16 in Terre Haute, Indiana, for the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The victims included 19 children.
Bush received a letter last week from John Paul in which the Pope made his clemency request, the Associated Press reported. Legal scholars said it appeared Bush had no way to intervene in the execution even if he were inclined to. McVeigh allowed a Feb. 16 deadline to pass without filing a request for clemency.
A White House spokeswoman had said Friday that Bush had no intention of trying to grant clemency.
"The president has great respect for the Pope and this is a tragic situation," spokeswoman Claire Buchan said. "The president also has deep compassion and sympathy for the 168 victims of the Oklahoma City bombing and their families."
During his years as governor of Texas, Bush broke the record of executions since 1976, when capital punishment was re-established in the country.
According to the latest opinion polls, more than 60% of the population supports the death penalty. Moreover, given the magnitude of the Oklahoma City attack, few voices have been raised to save McVeigh´s life. Among the latter are those of U.S. cardinals and bishops.
John Paul II regularly appeals for clemency for persons condemned to death anywhere in the world. Capital punishment is a clear issue of disagreement between the Bush administration and the Catholic Church. On other issues, such as respect for the life of the unborn, the president has fostered a rapprochement with Catholics.
On Jan. 27, 1999, during his last visit to the United States, John Paul II described the death penalty as a "cruel" and "unnecessary" punishment. The Pope said in St. Louis, Missouri: "Modern society has the means to protect itself and does not need to deny definitively the possibility of correction."