VATICAN CITY, Dec 15 ( – Media reports covering statements made by Pope John Paul II Sunday with regard to the death penalty failed for the most part to mention an essential proviso to his call for abolition of the death penalty. The official Vatican Information Service noted that, while the pope did renew his “appeal to all leaders to reach an international consensus to abolish the death penalty”, he based this position on the view that “the cases of absolute necessity for executing malefactors are by now so rare, if not practically non-existent.” 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that “the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude, presupposing full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the offender, recourse to the death penalty, when this is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor.” (CCC #2267) It adds that “if, instead, bloodless means are sufficient to defend against the aggressor and to protect the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.” 

With files from the Vatican Information Service.