Pope calls for worldwide ban on death penalty

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Pope Francis Calls on World Leaders to Abolish the Death Penalty

Pope Francis on Sunday called for a worldwide ban on the death penalty, saying the commandment "You shall not kill" was just as valid for the guilty as for the innocent.

Speaking to tens of thousands of people in St. Peter's Square, the pope also called on Catholic politicians worldwide to work for a moratorium on any executions during the Church's current Holy Year, which ends in November.

SEE ALSO: Mississippi's top lawyer seeks firing squad as execution option

"I appeal to the consciences of those who govern to reach an international consensus to abolish the death penalty," he said.

The 1.2 billion-member Catholic Church for centuries allowed the death penalty in extreme cases but the position began changing under the late Pope John Paul, who died in 2005.

Photos from the pope's recent visit to Mexico:

23 PHOTOS
Pope Francis visits Mexico
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Pope calls for worldwide ban on death penalty
Bishops attend the open-air mass by Pope Francis in Ecatepec --a rough, crime-plagued Mexico City suburb-- on February 14, 2016. Pope Francis has chosen to visit some of Mexico's most troubled regions during his five-day trip to the world's second most populous Catholic country. AFP PHOTO/GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP / GABRIEL BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
ECATEPEC, MEXICO - FEBRUARY 14: People sings during a mass at Ecatepec on February 14, 2016 in Ecatepec, Mexico. Pope Francis is on a five-day visit in Mexico from February 12 to 17 where he is expected to visit five states. (Photo by Hector Vivas/LatinContent/Getty Images)
A young girl waits for the passage of Pope Francis on his way to the Nuncianture, in Mexico City on February 13, 2016. Francis became the first pope to enter Mexico's National Palace to meet President Enrique Pena Nieto, as he starts a cross-country tour that will highlight the country's violence and migration troubles. AFP PHOTO. AFP PHOTO/MARIO VAZQUEZ / AFP / MARIO VAZQUEZ (Photo credit should read MARIO VAZQUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Catholic faithful wait for the arrival of Pope Francis in Ecatepec --a rough, crime-plagued Mexico City suburb-- where he is to celebrate an open-air mass, on February 14, 2016. Pope Francis has chosen to visit some of Mexico's most troubled regions during his five-day trip to the world's second most populous Catholic country. AFP PHOTO/ JULIO CESAR AGUILAR / AFP / Julio Cesar Aguilar (Photo credit should read JULIO CESAR AGUILAR/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis officiates an open-air mass in Ecatepec, near Mexico City, on February 14, 2016. Pope Francis urged Mexicans on Sunday to turn their country into a land of opportunity where there is no need to emigrate or mourn victims 'of the merchants of death.' AFP PHOTO/ALFREDO ESTRELLA / AFP / ALFREDO ESTRELLA (Photo credit should read ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images)
ECATEPEC, MEXICO - FEBRUARY 14: Pope Francis wlaks with a censer during a mass for the people at Ecatepec on February 14, 2016 in Ecatepec, Mexico. Pope Francis is on a five days visit in Mexico from February 12 to 17 where he is expected to visit five states. (Photo by Hector Vivas/LatinContent/Getty Images)
Pope Francis waves from the popemobile on his way to the cathedral, in Mexico City on February 13, 2016. Francis became the first pope to enter Mexico's National Palace to meet President Enrique Pena Nieto, as he starts a cross-country tour that will highlight the country's violence and migration troubles. AFP PHOTO/GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP / GABRIEL BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
Catholic faithfuls take communion during an open-air mass by Pope Francis in Ecatepec --a rough, crime-plagued Mexico City suburb-- on February 14, 2016. Pope Francis has chosen to visit some of Mexico's most troubled regions during his five-day trip to the world's second most populous Catholic country. AFP PHOTO / ALFREDO ESTRELLA / AFP / ALFREDO ESTRELLA (Photo credit should read ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis waves at the crowd from the Popemobile after celebrating an open-air mass in Ecatepec, near Mexico City on February 14, 2016. Pope Francis urged Mexicans on Sunday to turn their country into a land of opportunity where there is no need to emigrate or mourn victims 'of the merchants of death.'. AFP PHOTO/ JULIO CESAR AGUILAR / AFP / Julio Cesar Aguilar Fuentes (Photo credit should read JULIO CESAR AGUILAR FUENTES/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis waves from the popemobile upon arrival in Ecatepec --a rough, crime-plagued Mexico City suburb-- where he is to celebrate an open-air mass, on February 14, 2016. Pope Francis has chosen to visit some of Mexico's most troubled regions during his five-day trip to the world's second most populous Catholic country. AFP PHOTO / YURI CORTEZ / AFP / YURI CORTEZ (Photo credit should read YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
ECATEPEC, MEXICO - FEBRUARY 14: Faithful prays after receiving the communion wafer during a mass for the people at Ecatepec on February 14, 2016 in Ecatepec, Mexico. Pope Francis is on a five days visit in Mexico from February 12 to 17 where he is expected to visit five states. (Photo by Hector Vivas/LatinContent/Getty Images)
A security member stands guard next to a graffiti depicting Pope Francis in Ecatepec --a rough, crime-plagued Mexico City suburb-- where he will celebrate an open-air mass, on February 14, 2016. Pope Francis has chosen to visit some of Mexico's most troubled regions during his five-day trip to the world's second most populous Catholic country. AFP PHOTO / YURI CORTEZ / AFP / YURI CORTEZ (Photo credit should read YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Faithfuyl welcome Pope Francis as he arrives to celebrate an open-air Holy Mass in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico on February 13, 2016. Pope Francis is in Mexico for a trip encompassing two of the defining themes of his papacy: bridge-building diplomacy and his concern for migrants seeking a better life. AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP / GABRIEL BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis arrives to celebrate a Holy Mass in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico on February 13, 2016. Pope Francis is in Mexico for a trip encompassing two of the defining themes of his papacy: bridge-building diplomacy and his concern for migrants seeking a better life. AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP / GABRIEL BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis (C) arrives to celebrate a Holy Mass in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico on February 13, 2016. Pope Francis is in Mexico for a trip encompassing two of the defining themes of his papacy: bridge-building diplomacy and his concern for migrants seeking a better life. AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP / GABRIEL BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis (C) at an open-air mass at the Guadalupe Basilica in Mexico City on February 13, 2016. The pope urged Mexican bishops Saturday to take on drug trafficking with 'prophetic courage,' warning that it represents a moral challenge to society and the church. AFP PHOTO / Alfredo ESTRELLA / AFP / ALFREDO ESTRELLA (Photo credit should read ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis officiates an open-air mass at the Guadalupe Basilica in Mexico City on February 13, 2016. The pope urged Mexican bishops Saturday to take on drug trafficking with 'prophetic courage,' warning that it represents a moral challenge to society and the church. AFP PHOTO / Alfredo ESTRELLA / AFP / ALFREDO ESTRELLA (Photo credit should read ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images)
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - FEBRUARY 13: Pope Francis speaks during a mass for the people at Basilica de Guadalupe on February 13, 2016 in Mexico City, Mexico. Pope Francis is on a five-day visit in Mexico from February 12 to 17 where he is expected to visit five states. (Photo by Hector Vivas/LatinContent/Getty Images)
Pope Francis (R) officiates an open-air mass at the Guadalupe Basilica in Mexico City on February 13, 2016. The pope urged Mexican bishops Saturday to take on drug trafficking with 'prophetic courage,' warning that it represents a moral challenge to society and the church. AFP PHOTO / Alfredo ESTRELLA / AFP / ALFREDO ESTRELLA (Photo credit should read ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Pope Francis wears a traditional Mexican sombrero hat received as a gift by a Mexican journalist on February 12, 2016, aboard the plane to Havana. Pope Francis headed to Cuba on Friday looking to heal a 1,000-year-old rift in Christianity before embarking on a tour of Mexico dominated by modern day problems of drug-related violence and migration. / AFP / POOL / ALESSANDRO DI MEO (Photo credit should read ALESSANDRO DI MEO/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis waves from the Popemobile upon his arrival in Mexico City on February 12, 2016. Catholic faithful flocked to the streets of Mexico City to greet Pope Francis on Friday after the pontiff held a historic meeting with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Cuba. AFP PHOTO/Yuri Cortez / AFP / YURI CORTEZ (Photo credit should read YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis (C) waves next to Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto (R) and First Lady Angelica Rivera (L) upon his arrival at Benito Juarez international airport in Mexico City on February 12, 2016. Catholic faithful flocked to the streets of Mexico City to greet Pope Francis on Friday after the pontiff held a historic meeting with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Cuba. AFP PHOTO/RONALDO SCHEMIDT / AFP / RONALDO SCHEMIDT (Photo credit should read RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
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"The commandment "You shall not kill," has absolute value and applies to both the innocent and the guilty," Francis told the crowd.

The pope added that there was "a growing opposition to the death penalty even for the legitimate defense of society" because modern means existed to "efficiently repress crime without definitively denying the person who committed it the possibility of rehabilitating themselves."

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; editing by Richard Balmforth)

Click through to read some of Pope Francis' most provocative quotes:

11 PHOTOS
10 of Pope Francis’s most provocative quotes
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Pope calls for worldwide ban on death penalty

"Hatred is not to be carried in the name of God! War is not to be waged in the name of God!"

October 8, 2014, St. Peter’s Square

(Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

"Women in the church are more important than bishops and priests."

June 28, 2013, on a flight to Rome

(Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

"Some think, excuse me if I use the word, that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits — but no."

January 19, 2015, on a flight to Rome

(Photo credit should read GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images)

"I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful ... I see the church as a field hospital after battle."

September 30, 2013, interview, America magazine

 (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)

"I believe in God, not in a Catholic God, there is no Catholic God, there is God and I believe in Jesus Christ, his incarnation."

October 1, 2013, interview, La Repubblica newspaper

(Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

"Men and women are sacrificed to the idols of profit and consumption: it is the ‘culture of waste.’ If a computer breaks it is a tragedy, but poverty, the needs and dramas of so many people end up being considered normal."

June 5, 2013, St. Peter’s Square

(Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)

"Perhaps you were mad, perhaps plates flew, but please remember this: never let the sun go down without making peace! Never, never, never!"

February 14, 2014, St. Peter’s Square

(Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

"Do you open your hearts to the memories that your grandparents pass on? Grandparents are like the wisdom of the family, they are the wisdom of a people."

October 26, 2013, St. Peter’s Square

(Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

"True love is both loving and letting oneself be loved. It is harder to let ourselves be loved than it is to love." 

January 18, 2015, Manila, Philippines

(MARCELLO PATERNOSTRO/AFP/Getty Images)

"Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads ... to those who have quit or are indifferent."

September 30, 2013, interview, America magazine

(REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini)
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