Top Vatican official condemns Saddam's death penalty
ROME (AP) — A top Vatican official condemned the death sentence against Saddam Hussein in a newspaper interview published Thursday, saying capital punishment goes against the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
Cardinal Renato Martino, Pope Benedict XVI's top prelate for justice issues and a former Vatican envoy to the U.N., said executing the ousted Iraqi leader would punish "a crime with another crime," and he expressed hope that the sentence would not be carried out.
In the interview with Rome daily La Repubblica, Martino reiterated the Vatican's staunch opposition to the death penalty, saying that life must be safeguarded from its beginning to its natural end.
"The death penalty is not a natural death. And no one can give death, not even the State," he said.
On Tuesday, Iraq's highest court rejected Saddam's appeal against a conviction and death sentence for the killing of 148 people in Dujail, in northern Iraq, in 1982. The court said the former president should be hanged within 30 days.
Martino's comments follow remarks he made after Saddam's initial sentencing, when the prelate denounced the planned execution as "eye for eye" logic.
In Thursday's interview, Martino also recalled how the late Pope John Paul II had opposed the war in Iraq.
"John Paul II did his duty," the cardinal told La Repubblica. "He said the war in Iraq would have been an adventure without return — and we are seeing it."
Martino called for an international conference to take on all the conflicts in the region, including in Iraq, Lebanon and the Holy Land.
On Thursday, Italian Premier Romano Prodi also reiterated previous condemnations of Saddam's sentence, both on moral and practical grounds. Italy is a firm opponent of capital punishment.
"I don't believe that Saddam's execution would remotely help bring peace to the country," he said. Aside from the moral condemnation, he added, "even politically I think it would carry ... more negative consequences than positive ones."
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