Bishop Joel Baylon of Legazpi, head of the Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care of the Philippine bishops’ conference, welcomed Pope Francis’ statement rejecting the death penalty.
In his latest encyclical, “Fratelli tutti,” the pontiff said the “death penalty is inadmissible and the Church is firmly committed to calling for its abolition worldwide.”
Bishop Baylon said the statement is “definitely wonderful news to everyone who is against the death penalty, a confidence-booster for our advocacy and efforts to stop its reimposition.”
In August, the House Committee on Justice of the Philippine Congress revived hearings on death penalty bills weeks after President Rodrigo Duterte called for its re-imposition in the country.
Father Melvin Castro, spiritual director of the group Pro-Life Philippines, also welcomed the pope’s latest encyclical.
“Death penalty is deeply inclined against the poor and the marginalized since they lack all the necessary resources to access a fair and just trial,” said the priest.
He said that to deter heinous crimes, and any crime for that matter, “the justice system in our country should be fair to everyone, rich and poor alike.”
“As it is, the rich and influential are, almost always, able to escape justice,” said Father Castro.
The Catholic Church, he said, has always been consistent in “upholding the sacredness of life from the moment of conception to natural death.”
In his encyclical letter, Pope Francis said “all Christians and people of good will today are called to work not only for the abolition of the death penalty … but also to work for the improvement of prison conditions, out of respect for the human dignity of persons deprived of their freedom.”
The pontiff’s third encyclical was released on October 4, feast of St. Francis of Assisi.