Pope: Death Penalty Inadmissible
Pope Francis has changed the teachings of the Catholic faith to officially oppose the death penalty in all circumstances, the Vatican has said.
The Catechism of the Church, a codified doctrine which sums up teachings, had previously stated that the death penalty could be used in some cases.
The declaration by Pope Francis, who is spiritual leader to the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, may have particular resonance in the United States, where capital punishment remains legal in 31 states and as a federal punishment.
The Catholic Church's teaching on the death penalty has slowly evolved since the time of Pope John Paul II, who served from 1978 to 2005.
In his Christmas message in 1998, John Paul wished "the world the consensus concerning the need for urgent and adequate measures ... to end the death penalty."
His successor, Benedict XVI, in a document published in November 2011, called on society's leaders "to make every effort to eliminate the death penalty."