The debate over the death penalty in Louisiana is one that has gone on for decades. But in a new letter from the Vatican to Governor John, bel, Edwards, church leaders are asking that death row be cleared in the state.

Louisiana currently has 57 inmates on death row and last year 56 of them petitioned the state to receive clemency from the governor before he left office. The Vatican’s office of the Pontifical Academy of Life stressed the Roman Catholic Church's opposition to the death penalty in a letter to the Governor.

According to a story posted on KALB/Alexandria’s website, the letter reads in part, we think the clearing of Louisiana death row would be a monumental step toward the abolition of the death penalty.

Throughout the last governor’s race, Governor Edwards touted himself as a pro-life governor. That included his stance on abortion and his overall stance on abortion and on the death penalty. However, there have been no real moves in the state on that issue since Edwards became Governor. The issue did come up before a recent legislative session, but the issue was stonewalled in the legislature.

Just last month, federal regulators and the state removed juveniles from the Louisiana State Penitentiary, (also known as Angola) due to conditions at the facility. This is where Louisiana’s death row is housed.

The Death Penalty and the Catholic Church

The Catholic Church's stance on the death penalty has evolved In recent years, it has become increasingly opposed to capital punishment in any form. In the mid-90s, Pope John Paul II declared that it should be used only in rare cases. More recently, Pope Francis further reinforced this position, emphasizing the sanctity of life and the need for compassion and rehabilitation over punishment.

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Gallery Credit: Rachel Cavanaugh

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