Port Moresby (Agenzia Fides) - "With the many countries that have abolished the death penalty as an extreme act of violence performed in the name of the people and with the teaching of the Catholic Church, we the bishops of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands strongly oppose the use of the death penalty. It has no place in a Christian country where true justice and mercy should prevail. Where executions are performed by the State, the people develop the attitude that it is acceptable to respond to violence with violence. We pray that the rejection of this form of public violence will set an example and lead to a rejection of domestic violence and all other forms of violence in our society and open the way to a lasting peace", say the Bishops of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands in a new Pastoral Letter on the issue of the death penalty.
In 1991 the Papua New Guinea Parliament reintroduced the death penalty. In 2013 the Criminal Code was changed to set out the acceptable ways to do it: to hang, suffocate, electrocute, shoot or poison someone with a deadly injection. The government argued that "this is the best way to protect society from the repetition of terrible crimes".
It is in response to this political legislation and this popular reaction that we, the bishops of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, are addressing this letter in defence of life, highlighting several main reasons to say "no" to the death penalty.
One reason given for punishing people is to help them change their behaviour, to rehabilitate them, to restore a just relationship with the others so that they can return to the community. The death penalty clearly does not do this. It kills them. Secondly, it "violates the sanctity and dignity of human life", which is "at the heart of the Gospel teaching". It is said that the death penalty will stop serious crime but it does not even pretend to correct the injustices in society that lead people to commit crimes. Finally, it "can lead to wrongful conviction and execution" in the case of judicial errors. The bishops of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands strongly oppose the use of the death penalty. It has no place in a Christian country where true justice and mercy should prevail (PA) (Agenzia Fides 13/05/2015)