News Headlines > Bishop opposes death sentence for man convicted of killing churchgoers

12 January 2017 | by Catholic News Service

Bishop opposes death sentence for man convicted of killing churchgoers

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Bishop Guglielmone said the Catholic Church opposes capital punishment and reminded people that all life is sacred

The Catholic bishop of Charleston has called for the perpetrator of the Charleston church shooting to be spared capital punishment, after jurors unanimously agreed to sentence Dylann Roof to death.

On 17 June 2015 the now 22-year-old Roof opened fire on a church service in one of the United States’ oldest black churches, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston. After his arrest he confessed to the attack, saying he hoped to ignite a race war.

In closing statements at the end of his trial on 10 January, the unrepentant Roof told jurors: "I still feel like I had to do it," the Associated Press reported.

Bishop Robert Guglielmone said in a statement that the Catholic Church opposes capital punishment and reminded people that all life is sacred.

"We are all sinners, but through the father's loving mercy and Jesus' redeeming sacrifice upon the cross, we have been offered the gift of eternal life. The Catholic opposition to the death penalty, therefore, is rooted in God's mercy. The Church believes the right to life is paramount to every other right as it affords the opportunity for conversion, even of the hardened sinner," Bishop Guglielmone said.

"Sentencing Dylann Roof to death conflicts with the church's teaching that all human life is sacred, even for those who have committed the most heinous of crimes. Instead of pursuing death, we should be extending compassion and forgiveness to Mr Roof, just as some of the victims' families did at his bond hearing in June 2015," the bishop added.

After the news of the shooting spread around the world, videos of the victims’ families offering their forgiveness to Roof went viral.

Roof was convicted of 33 federal charges last month, including hate crimes. The defendant acted as his own attorney and did not question any witnesses.

The jury had to reach a unanimous decision to sentence Roof to death. Had they disagreed, he would have been automatically sentenced to life in prison.

Bishop Guglielmone offered prayers of support for those who were killed and their families and he asked people to continue to pray for the victims, survivors and families connected with the shooting. "May he acknowledge his sins, convert to the Lord and experience his loving mercy," Bishop Guglielmone said.

The Rev Clementa Pinckney, pastor of Emanuel AME Church, Tywanza Sanders, the Rev Sharonda Singleton, the Rev DePayne Middleton-Doctor, the Rev Daniel Simmons Sr., the Rev Cynthia Hurd, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lance, and Susie Jackson were killed in the shooting.

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