WASHINGTON (July 23, 1999) -- On behalf of Pope John Paul II, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States has written to Governor Don Siegelman of Alabama, appealing for clemency for Victor Kennedy, a convicted murderer scheduled to die August 6.
"As you know, the Holy Father's appeals to end the death penalty have become more and more frequent and pressing, especially as the new Millennium draws near," wrote Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo.
"Killing people to show that killing people is wrong is a piercing contradiction," Archbishop Montalvo said.
"The Holy Father, while praying and expressing deep sympathy for the victim, for her family and friends, also prays that the life of Mr. Kennedy may be saved through your compassion and magnanimity," the Archbishop told Governor Siegelman.
Victor Kennedy was convicted of the brutal murder of an eighty-six year-old Alabama widow in the course of a 1980 burglary.
"His Holiness counts on your right to spare a life by commuting this sentence with a gesture of mercy that would hopefully contribute to the promotion of nonviolence in today's society," Archbishop Montalvo continued. "A sentence of life without the possibility of parole provides substantial safeguards for society and levels a grave punishment against the accused."
The Church's involvement in the capital punishment issue has taken on a high profile in recent months. In January, Pope John Paul called for an end to the death penalty in the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation which he released in Mexico City. Later, he successfully appealed to Governor Mel Carnahan of Missouri to commute the death sentence of convicted murderer Darrell Mease. The U.S. Bishops' Administrative Board released a Good Friday statement on April 2, calling on the nation's more than 60 million Catholics to oppose the death penalty. In the past two months, Archbishop Montalvo has made clemency appeals for men on death row in four different states.