Ninety-eight people were executed in the United States last year30 more than in 1998 and the most since 1951. A new campaign by the National Jewish/Catholic Consultation acknowledges that although both traditions theoretically allow the death penalty, the grounds for supporting it have narrowed. Now, the group says, "it is time to cease the practice altogether." (See their statement at www.nccbuscc.org/comm/archives/99-288.htm.)
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Although 70 percent of Americans still support the death penalty, that figure is the lowest in 13 years, and the number of death sentences last year was at a six-year low of 285. This trend signals, in the words of Pope John Paul II, "the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil....I renew the appeal for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary."
In addition, the Rome-based SantEgidio religious community and Amnesty International are currently cooperating on a petition for a worldwide moratorium on executions. The petition is available at www.amnesty. ca/deathpenalty.