Pope Benedict, Kentucky bishops join effort to halt execution

FRANKFORT, Ky. (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI and the Catholic bishops of Kentucky have asked Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear to commute the death sentence of Gregory Wilson, whose execution was scheduled for Sept. 16.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville and the Rev. Marian McClure Taylor, executive director of the Kentucky Council of Churches, met with Beshear Sept. 9 in Frankfort to outline their legal and moral objections to the execution of Wilson, whose attorneys say is mentally disabled and who has asked for DNA testing that he says would exonerate him.
The archbishop also presented a letter from Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States, asking on behalf of Pope Benedict that Wilson’s sentence be commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Recalling the pope’s appeal to end the death penalty during his 2008 visit to the United States, Archbishop Sambi told Beshear, “Please allow yourself to reflect on the Holy Father’s plea and use your authority to help shape a society in which all human life is recognized as sacred.”

In a separate letter, the four Catholic bishops of Kentucky said they were appealing to the governor as “a man of faith and leader of our commonwealth” to be merciful toward Wilson. Mercy “protects the common good of society, honors justice and serves a higher purpose in putting aside the irreversible remedy of death,” they said.

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