Vatican: Saddam death sentence wrong

By  Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service
  • November 9, 2006
Saddam HusseinVATICAN CITY - The head of the Vatican's justice and peace office and an editor of a Vatican-approved Jesuit journal said it would be wrong to carry out the death penalty against Saddam Hussein.

The former Iraqi president was sentenced to death by hanging Nov. 5 in a case involving the deaths of 148 Iraqis in 1982.

Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said, "For me, to punish a crime with another crime, such as killing out of vengeance, means that we are still at the stage of 'an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.' "

In a Nov. 5 interview with ANSA, the Italian news agency, the cardinal said both Pope John Paul II's 1995 encyclical, Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), and the Catechism of the Catholic Church teach that modern societies have the means to protect citizens from the threat of a murderer without resorting to execution.

"God has given us life, and only can God take it away," the cardinal said, adding, "the death sentence is not a natural death."

"Life is a gift that the Lord has given us, and we must protect it from conception until natural death," he said.

"Unfortunately," he said, "Iraq is among the few countries that has not yet made the choice of civility by abolishing the death penalty."

Jesuit Father Michele Simone, assistant director of La Civilta Cattolica, a Vatican-reviewed magazine, told Vatican Radio the sentence "certainly would not resolve the situation in Iraq."

"In a situation like that of Iraq, where hundreds are, in fact, condemned to death each day" by the ongoing violence, "adding one more does not help anything," he said.

Simone said if Saddam had not been condemned to death, most Iraqis probably would have questioned the integrity of the trial "because death has become the order of the day. But to save a life — which does not mean accepting what Saddam Hussein did — is always positive."

The Jesuit said the Iraqi government must find a political solution to promote and protect the lives of all its citizens and the value of human life in general.

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