Two local churches will be lit up outside and people will lead a candlelight prayer vigil to witness as part of the International Campaign to Abolish the Death Penalty AND to Support Healing for Victims’ Families. The witness and candlelight prayer vigil will take place on Human Rights Day, Wednesday, December 10, 2003. The sites are Mother of God Church in Covington, KY at 7:00 p.m. and Holy Cross-Immaculata Church in Mt. Adams, KY at 8:00 p.m. The two sites are visible from land and water in the area. Participants are asked to bring candles.
Locally (and eventually nationally) this is an initiative of Sr. Helen Prejean, CSJ (Dead Man Walking) and her community, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille who are based in Cincinnati. Sr. Ruth Kettman, CSJ is the local organizer for Kentucky and Ohio.
The International Campaign to Abolish the Death Penalty includes groups such as the Moratorium Campaign, Amnesty International and The Community of Sant’Egidio which began in Rome in 1968, in the period following the Second Vatican Council. (Today it is a movement of lay people and has more than 40,000 members, dedicated to evangelization and charity, in Rome, Italy and in more than 60 countries throughout the world.) This Campaign has 145 involved countries and has collected over 4,500,000 signatures.
During the Millennium Year celebration in Rome the Colosseum – site of terror and bloodshed in imperial Rome - was illuminated with bright yellow-gold light for two days each time an execution anywhere in the world was suspended or commuted, or a nation abolished capital punishment. The Colosseum was lit up 18 times in the year 2000. In addition to commutations and the moratorium on executions in Illinois and the Phillipines, four countries abolished the death penalty. They are: Ivory Coast, Bermuda, Turkmenistan and Albania.
The number of abolitionist countries has more than tripled in the past 30 years. There were 21 in 1970. There were 76 in 2002. The number of abolitionist countries by law or in practice is 111. The number of retentionist countries is 84.
On the eve of the Jubilee year, John Paul II, who has frequently intervened personally to try to prevent executions, stated. “The Great Jubilee is an excellent opportunity to promote in the world ever more mature forms of respect for the life and dignity of every person. I therefore renew my appeal to all leaders to reach an international consensus on the abolition of the death penalty, since “cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity are very rare, if not practically non-existent” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2267).”
(Sr. Ruth Kettman, CSJ Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille 859-283-6268)