Christ’s suffering on Good Friday a call to pray for death penalty abolition, advocates say

By Kate Scanlon | OSV News

WASHINGTON (OSV News) — Catholics should mark Christ’s suffering and death on Good Friday with prayers for an end to the use of the death penalty, Catholic opponents of the practice said.

Catholic Mobilizing Network, a group that opposes capital punishment, will host April 7 a virtual prayer vigil for an end to capital punishment as a part of its First Friday prayer series.

Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, the group’s executive director, told OSV News that “Jesus was a victim of capital punishment.”

“On Good Friday, he was nailed to a cross and executed by the Roman state,” Vaillancourt Murphy said. “The death penalty wasn’t an extraneous detail in the Passion story; it was a pivotal plot point. Because of this, Good Friday is a day that every Catholic should be reckoning with the modern sin of capital punishment and our moral imperative to abolish it.”

Demonstrators hold signs protesting capital punishment in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington June 29, 2022. Catholics should mark Christ’s suffering and death on Good Friday with prayers for an end to the use of the death penalty, Catholic opponents of the practice said. (OSV News photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

In his 2020 encyclical “Fratelli tutti,” Pope Francis cited Pope St. John Paul II, whom he said “stated clearly and firmly (in the encyclical ‘Evangelium vitae’) that the death penalty is inadequate from a moral standpoint and no longer necessary from that of penal justice.”

“There can be no stepping back from this position,” Pope Francis wrote. “Today we state clearly that ‘the death penalty is inadmissible,’ and the Church is firmly committed to calling for its abolition worldwide.”

Pope Francis also revised the Catechism of the Catholic Church (No. 2267) to reflect that position in 2018.

Vaillancourt Murphy said the vigil will be “a virtual space for Catholics to join together to reflect on this call, in accordance with the Church’s official teaching.”

“CMN offers a standing prayer vigil on the first Friday of every month where we lament upcoming executions,” she said. “But on this holy day in the Christian tradition, marked by the powerful image of Christ’s immense suffering, the Good Friday Vigil will be even more solemn. We can’t ignore that the Good Friday crowd’s bloodthirsty chants of ‘crucify him, crucify him’ are echoed still today — with executions set for the coming weeks in Florida and Texas.”

Vaillancourt Murphy said the group plans to open the vigil “with a prayer and a reading of the Passion, much like our parishes do during their Good Friday services.”

“CMN’s religious engagement associate, Sister Eileen Reilly, SSND, will offer a reflection, drawing parallels between Jesus’ execution and the executions of our modern day,” she said. “We will offer intercessions for those harmed by our capital punishment system, including victims’ families, people on death row and their families, executioners and prison workers, and more. There will be music and time for contemplative silence.”

The group plans to make a recording available for those who have other obligations when it airs live at 2 p.m. ET.

Vaillancourt Murphy said that in addition to participating in the vigil, “there are so many ways for Catholics to educate themselves, advocate and pray for an end to the death penalty on Good Friday.”

“Catholics can hold death penalty abolition as a special intention as they participate in a Veneration of the Cross or Stations of the Cross,” she said. “Catholics can commit to praying more regularly for an end to the death penalty through CMN’s monthly prayer vigils organized through our Faith & Action First Fridays program. Catholics can sign up to engage in impactful anti-death penalty advocacy through CMN’s Mercy in Action Project, which equips people of faith to oppose executions.”

“Good Friday is an opportunity to immerse ourselves more deeply in Jesus’ execution story and to allow Christ’s Passion to empower our actions to end the death penalty in our modern world,” she added.

NOTES: More information about CMN’s Good Friday Prayer Vigil for an End to the Death Penalty is available on their website: Catholic Mobilizing Network offers a death penalty-specific Stations of the Cross resource here:

Author: OSV News

OSV News is a national and international wire service reporting on Catholic issues and issues that affect Catholics.

Leave a Reply