Tomorrow is the the anniversary  of the first ever abolition of the death penalty by a state -- the Grand Duchy of Tuscany on 30 November 1786 -- celebrated for the past few years as the International Day of the Cities for Life campaign organised by the Rome-based Catholic community of Sant'Egidio. It begins tonight with a vigil (watch here) in Rome; 1,300 other cities across the world -- 61 of them capital cities -- in 85 countries will light up a monument or a square, to declare themselves against the death penalty. It is the largest international mobilisation against the death penalty there has ever been, bringing together local governments and civil society organisations under the slogan, "No justice without life".

This movement, part of the World Coalition against the Death Penalty, has had remarkable success in persuading country after country to renounce capital punishment, leaving a minority of just 54 who still practise it. The campaign has also led to thousands of death sentences being commuted to life -- and to a UN vote in favor of an international moratorium.

Speaking at the Sant'Egidio vigil at the Coliseum tonight are a number of Americans, including Derrick Jamison (an innocent man who spent 17 years on Death Row), Marietta Jaeger Lane and Ron Carlson.

Comments

David Cruz-Uribe | 11/29/2010 - 2:44pm
In the United States we can also commemorate March 1, the date on which the newly formed state of Michigan abolished the death penalty, the first state in the Union to do so.  The state was moved to take this step by the execution of an innocent man.  Michigan was soon followed by Wisconsin. 

Sant-Egidio also sponsors an illumination of the Coliseum in Rome each time that a nation (or state/province) abolishes the death penalty.  On December 17, 2007, it was illuminated to mark the abolition of the death penalty by New Jersey, and again on April 17, 2009.  God willing, we will see it illuminated again in 2011 when Connecticut abolishes the death penalty.

Anonymous | 12/1/2010 - 1:11pm
''that abortions and wars and the other various deadly-force scenarios have far too much popular support''


And the Jesuits and the Kennedy's were at the fore front of the acquiescence of the Catholic Church to the acceptance of abortion.  They met in 1964, nine years before Roe vs. Wade, for a few days at the Kennedy's request and developed a strategy on how that acquiescence would take place.  We now have the famous line


''they were personally opposed to abortion, but''
Stephen Murray | 11/30/2010 - 12:25pm
Now, if America would only include life- in- the- womb- waiting- to- be- born, a complete theological statement would result.
Marie Rehbein | 12/3/2010 - 11:59pm
"NO JUSTICE WITHOUT LIFE" is right.  There is no justice, first, because taking a life does not automatically result in a lifetime imprisonment, and, second, even when it does, that prisoner is well fed, clothed, housed, entertained, and visited, while the loved ones of the deceased are left to their grief. 

I cannot think of anything that would make a criminal more interested in redemption than his imminent death by execution.
Chris Boscia | 12/2/2010 - 4:16pm
"And why is keeping a human being penned in a cage for years or the rest of his life so much better than simply ending his life?"

David, one word Catholic answer: redemption.