Pope Francis today, in what could be a decisive turning point for the future of the death penalty in not just the United States, but in many of the 53 countries where it is still in place, declared that it is “inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person” and said the church will work for its “abolition worldwide.”

The Pope’s statement is now official doctrine and has been added to the Catechism, the Catholic Church’s official guide to its beliefs and practices.

“In addition to papal proclamations, Catholic bishops in every state that have the death penalty have taken stands to see an end to this practice. Today’s action further clarifies any remaining ambiguity about the Church’s teaching against the death penalty and strengthens the global resolve to bring an end to this practice,” Catholic Mobilizing Network Executive Director Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy said in a statement.

“For too long death penalty advocates quote Scripture or cite their religious beliefs when trying to justify this barbaric punishment,” says DPF Executive Director Magdaleno “Leno” Rose-Avila. “Now, the head of the Catholic Church is telling his millions of followers that the death penalty is ‘inadmissible,” and he will direct the effort to abolish it wherever it is still in use. It’s a powerful message and its repercussions will be felt in courtrooms, churches, and at the ballot box.

“Francis has always been an ally, but today he took a firm and dramatic step forward in the fight for abolition. He has firmly clarified the Church’s opposition to all executions.”

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