Pope Francis’s intention for this month is:
We pray that the death penalty, which attacks the dignity of the human person, may be legally abolished in every country.
Jesus was crucified between two thieves. These willow crosses were used to make Easter Gardens for Saint Mildred’s church in Canterbury and for our community houses, but they do not convey the torturous death of crucifixion. The ivory figures on the crosses in Winchester Cathedral express the attack on the dignity of the three condemned men, each one unable to lift a finger to ease his suffering. The only way to alleviate the pain is for the overseeing centurion to intervene with a leg-breaking, death-dealing blow.
When today someone is killed by firing squad, hanging, electric shock or lethal drugs, there is not the three hours’ agony endured by Jesus, but there is a lifetime of sorrow for the criminal’s relatives, while ‘closure’ for the victim’s family may still be elusive. It is well-known that the greater number of violent offenders have experienced violence themselves; are their lives to be terminated in violence?
We could add to Pope Francis’s intention a prayer for the children who are subjected to violence, that through the love, care and respect of adults who work with them, they may come to live in peace with themselves, with other people and with God.
And let us remember Jesus’ promise to the repentant thief: this day you will be with me in Paradise.