Pope shifts church teaching on the death penalty, says it's never acceptable

Pope Francis speaks to believers from the window of the Apostolic Palace overlooking St Peter's Square during his Sunday Angelus prayer at the Vatican on January 22, 2017.
Alberto Pizzoli | AFP | Getty Images
Pope Francis speaks to believers from the window of the Apostolic Palace overlooking St Peter's Square during his Sunday Angelus prayer at the Vatican on January 22, 2017.

Pope Francis has changed church teaching about the death penalty, saying it can never be sanctioned because it "attacks" the inherent dignity of all humans.

The Vatican said Thursday that Francis had changed the Catechism of the Catholic Church — the compilation of official Catholic teaching. Previously, the catechism said the church didn't exclude recourse to capital punishment "if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor."

The new teaching says the previous policy is outdated and that there are other ways to protect society: "Consequently the church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person, and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide."