Catholic Church changes teaching to oppose death penalty in all cases

VATICAN CITY, Aug 2 (Reuters) - The Roman Catholic Church formally changed its teaching on Thursday to declare the death penalty inadmissible in all circumstances.

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

The Vatican said it had changed its universal catechism, a summary of Church teaching, to reflect Pope Francis' total opposition to capital punishment.

According to the new entry in the catechism, "the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person," it said, citing an address by Pope Francis.

The new provision is expected to run into stiff opposition from Catholics in countries such as the United States, where many Catholics support the death penalty.

The change was enacted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is the body responsible for promulgating and defending Catholic doctrine.

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President Donald Trump meets Pope Francis
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President Donald Trump meets Pope Francis
Pope Francis meets U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife Melania during a private audience at the Vatican, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Alessandra Tarantino/pool
Pope Francis exchange gifts with U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife Melania during a private audience at the Vatican, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Alessandra Tarantino/pool
Pope Francis meets U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife Melania during a private audience at the Vatican, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Alessandra Tarantino/pool
U.S. President Donald Trump, first lady Melania, and the U.S. delegation pose with Pope Francis during a private audience at the Vatican, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Alessandra Tarantino/Pool
U.S. President Donald Trump stands next to Pope Francis during a private audience at the Vatican, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Evan Vucci/Pool
Pope Francis (C) walks past US First Lady Melania Trump (R) and the daughter of US President Donald Trump Ivanka Trump (L) at the end of a private audience at the Vatican on May 24, 2017. US President Donald Trump met Pope Francis at the Vatican today in a keenly-anticipated first face-to-face encounter between two world leaders who have clashed repeatedly on several issues. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Alessandra Tarantino (Photo credit should read ALESSANDRA TARANTINO/AFP/Getty Images)
A man raises a U.S. flag minutes before U.S. President Donald Trump arrives to meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - MAY 24: US President Donald Trump arrives to meet Pope Francis, on May 24, 2017 in Vatican City, Vatican. (Photo by Vatican Pool - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump arrives to meet Pope Francis at the Vatican, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - MAY 24 : U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and his wife Melania (R) arrive at the Vatican for their audience with Pope Francis, on May 24, 2017. (Photo by Riccardo De Luca/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive to meet Pope Francis at the Vatican, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - MAY 24: US President Donald Trump is welcomed by the prefect of the papal household Georg Gaenswein as he arrives at the Apostolic Palace for an audience with Pope Francis on May 24, 2017 in Vatican City, Vatican. The president will return to Italy on Friday, attending the Group of 7 summit in Sicily. Trump will also visit American troops stationed in at a US air base in Sicily. (Photo by Vatican Pool/Getty Images)
Archibishop Georg Ganswein escorts U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump who arrive to meet Pope Francis at the Vatican, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
U.S. President Donald Trump arrives at the Vatican to meet Pope Francis, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
President Donald Trump arrives to meet Pope Francis for a private audience at the Vatican, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Alessandra Tarantino/Pool
Pope Francis meets U.S. President Donald Trump during a private audience at the Vatican, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Alessandra Tarantino/Pool
Pope Francis meets U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife Melania during a private audience at the Vatican, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Alessandra Tarantino/Pool
Pope Francis meets U.S. President Donald Trump during a private audience at the Vatican, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Evan Vucci/Pool
U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin after a private audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Alessandra Tarantino/Pool
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania talk with Pope Francis during a meeting at the Vatican, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Evan Vucci/Pool
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(Reporting by Phil Pulella and Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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