The Vatican announced that Francis had changed the catechism of the church — the compilation of official Catholic teaching.
Previously, the catechism said the church didn’t exclude recourse to capital punishment “if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor”.
The new teaching says the previous policy is outdated and that there are other ways to protect society.
“Consequently the church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person, and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide,” it says.
The 1.2 billion-member Catholic Church has allowed the death penalty in extreme cases for centuries, but the position began to change under the late Pope John Paul II, who died in 2005.
The new provision is expected to run into stiff opposition from Catholics in countries such as the US, where many support the death penalty.
The change was enacted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is the body responsible for promulgating and defending Catholic doctrine.
Additional reporting by agencies.
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