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This year marks the 17th World Day Against the Death Penalty. State sanctioned execution is most often justified by the myth that it will deter crime. Yet, study after study has shown that the death penalty does not deter crime. It is also well known that poor people are sentenced to death and executed at disproportionately high rates. Most of all, it is clear that capital punishment is final, making it no longer possible for a person to seek forgiveness, experience a conversion of heart, or seek exoneration if wrongfully convicted. Most importantly, capital punishment is a violation of the sanctity of life. It fails to recognize the intrinsic value of every human life and our responsibility to protect and honor this most basic human right — to live. As Pope Francis put it: Therefore, all Christians and people of good will are called today to fight not only for the abolition of the death penalty, whether legal or illegal, and in all its forms, but also in order to improve the prison conditions, in respect of the human dignity of the persons deprived of freedom.

God, we pray that nations throughout the world will continue to work for the abolition of the death penalty. We commit ourselves to respect the dignity of every person, because we know that all human beings were created in your image and have the divine spark of life within them, no matter what evil deeds they may have committed. As followers of the Gospel, we commit ourselves to promoting compassionate alternatives to the death penalty, including restorative justice and funding for victims’ services. Help us to reject revenge as we continue to work for justice.