Faithful hold candlelight vigil to oppose executions

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SAN DIEGO — A diverse group of individuals and organizations came together on a blustery evening to hold a rally and prayer vigil to oppose executions the federal government said would be carried out as soon as possible.

The San Diego Catholic Diocese joined other faith and civil rights organizations at the event on Dec. 8, called “Not in Our Name,” held in front of the federal courthouse downtown.

Auxiliary Bishop John Dolan said the Catholic Church is committed to accompanying people on the peripheries,  including the men and women on death row. And the Church is advocating for a different way to treat them in the criminal justice system.

He noted that many people seek retributive justice against those individuals  convicted of  “heinous” crimes, such as murder. That kind of justice focuses on punishing  offenders rather than trying to rehabilitate them.

Pope Francis said that that kind of justice  fosters hatred and vengeance, Bishop Dolan said, and does not truly deliver justice.

He said the Church was advocating for the criminal justice system to pursue restorative justice, which focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims, their families and the community.

“Now is not the time to go backward,” Bishop Dolan told the 75 or so people who had gathered on the steps of the courthouse. “We need to continue to seek new ways  to bring people to wholeness, even people who have convicted of horrible crimes.”

Those present hoisted signs that “Stop Federal Executions” and “Abolish the Death Penalty.”

The speakers included Imam Taha Hassane, from the Islamic Center of San Diego; Geneviéve Jones-Wright, from the Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans; Jeff Chin, from the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties; and Justin Brooks from the California Innocence Project.

The federal government has not carried out an execution in 16 years. In July, the government announced that it would carry out four executions starting in December.

Days before they were scheduled to start, a U.S. District judge  issued an injunction halting the executions. The federal government said it would appeal that ruling.

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