Pope Francis today (February 21, 2016) urged Catholic leaders to show "exemplary" courage by not allowing executions this year, while expressing hope that eventually the death penalty will be abolished worldwide, according to the AP website.
Francis told tourists and pilgrims in St. Peter's Square that "the commandment 'do not kill' holds absolute value and applies to both the innocent and the guilty."
"I appeal to the conscience of those who govern so that international consensus is reached for the abolishment of the death penalty," the pope said. "And I propose to all those among them who are Catholic to make a courageous and exemplary gesture: May no execution sentence be carried out this Holy Year of Mercy."
Francis is using the church's Holy Year of Mercy, which runs through November 20, to encourage efforts for more reconciliation and mercy in the world.