WASHINGTON (September 24, 1999) -- On behalf of Pope John Paul II, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States has written to Governor Jeb Bush, appealing for clemency Joaquin Jose Martinez, a Spanish citizen who is a death row prisoner in the State of Florida.
"As is known, the Holy Father's entreaties to end the death penalty have become more and more frequent and pressing, especially as the third Christian Millennium draws near," Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo wrote to Governor Bush.
Archbishop Montalvo recalled that at a Mass celebrated during his January pastoral visit to St. Louis, Pope John Paul stated: "a sign of hope is 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. Modern society has the means of protecting itself without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform."
"A sentence of life without the possibility of parole provides substantial safeguards for society and levels a grave punishment against the accused," Archbishop Montalvo wrote.
The Apostolic Nuncio noted that on the same occasion the Pope also said "the new evangelization calls for followers of Christ who are unconditionally pro-life, who will proclaim, celebrate and serve the Gospel of life in every situation."
"The Holy Father prays that the life of Mr. Martinez may be saved through the compassion and magnanimity of yourself, Mr. Governor, and through the Board of Pardons and Paroles," Archbishop Montalvo said. "His Holiness counts on your authority to have a life spared by commuting this sentence with a gesture of mercy which would certainly contribute to the promotion of a culture of life and of non-violence in the freedom-loving society of the United States."
Joaquin Jose Martinez was convicted in 1997 of two counts of murder and armed burglary. His conviction is on appeal.
The Church's involvement in the issue of capital punishment has accelerated in recent months. In St. Louis, the Pope successfully appealed to Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan to commute the death sentence of a convicted murderer. 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. Throughout this year, Archbishop Montalvo has made clemency appeals for death row inmates in a number of different states.
N.B. A copy of the U.S. Bishops' Good Friday statement can be obtained through the Department of Communications of the United States Catholic Conference.