The Vatican said on August 2 that the death penalty is “inadmissible”. It was stated in an update of Catholic believers’ most important guide to Church teaching, the catechism.

“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’,” the new text states.

As reported by the Agence France-Presse (AFP), the move comes after decades of hardening opposition from the Church to capital punishment, with Pope Francis and his predecessors Benedict XVI and John Paul II all making similar pleas for it to be stopped.

John Paul II called for its abolition on a visit to the United States in 1999, while Benedict XVI said there was “the need to do everything possible to eliminate capital punishment,” without ever going as far as to ask for an edit of the catechism.

The Community of Sant’Egidio, an association that represents Christians in 70 countries and a long-time campaigner against the death penalty, expressed “joy” at the move.

“The Pope’s decision is a further push to the Church and Catholics, beginning with the Gospel, to respect the sacredness of human life and to work in every continent towards the abolishment of this inhuman practice,” the association said.

According to AFP, Francis has long opposed the death penalty, saying that the execution of a human being is fundamentally against the teachings of Christ because, by definition, it excludes the possibility of redemption.