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Pope Francis Calls For Abolition Of The Death Penalty

"Since every life is sacred," Pope Francis said in his first ever address to Congress, "society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes."

Posted on September 24, 2015, at 11:44 a.m. ET

In a historic speech to Congress on Thursday morning, Pope Francis strongly called for the global abolition of the death penalty.

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"Let us remember the Golden Rule: 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,'" the worldwide leader of more than 1 billion Catholics said in the midst of his historic address to U.S. lawmakers at the Capitol.

"This Rule points us in a clear direction. ... The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us," Francis continued, before going on to more directly address the issue of abortion, and shortly afterward, the death penalty.

"The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development," he said.

This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty.

I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes.

Recently my brother bishops here in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty. Not only do I support them, but I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.

Vincenzo Pinto / AFP / Getty Images

Earlier this year, at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the bishops issued a statement saying that the death penalty "contributes to a cycle of violence in our society that must be broken."

Pope Francis has expressed his stance on the abolition of the death penalty in the past, though this his first instance of addressing his views directly to U.S. lawmakers.

Several members of the U.S. Supreme Court, who earlier this year issued an opinion defending the entire concept of the death penalty and upholding the use of a lethal injection drug that has been used in numerous botched executions, were sitting in the House chambers as the pope delivered his speech.

The U.S. executes the most prisoners in the Western hemisphere and executes the fifth-most globally behind China, Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.

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