||Susan M. Recinella, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed|
By: Dale Recinella
Prevailing winds have turned from the north. The heavily industrialized plain of the Po River is bathed with sunlight under a deep blue sky.
The Alps to the north shimmer with snow, some of it fresh from below freezing temperatures of a few days ago.
It is Palm Sunday morning in Turin, Italy, my center of activity for eight days of faith-based conferences on the death penalty in the region of the Piemonte, the far northwest of Italy. The Holy Week series on capital punishment begins today and will culminate with an Easter Sunday talk. Some of the sessions, which are also scheduled in cities outside Turin, will be held in Catholic churches, others in Catholic high schools, still others in city halls that can hold the larger evening crowds of 400 or more.
It seems particularly appropriate to use Holy Week as a focus for the death penalty. After all, Jesus never advocated capital punishment. Jesus was a victim of capital punishment.
This Palm Sunday morning we begin with an outdoor procession before the main Mass. Don Giacomo, the pastor of San Giulio d’Orta, calls the crowd to order in front of the church. Children are shepherded to the front. The rest of us fall in line. I find myself about halfway back, in the middle of a throng that stretches for a city block, all following behind the elevated cross. The pastor leads the prayers through loudspeakers.
We wend our way along the Corso Cadore and then turn onto Via Deledda, a stream of people flowing through a channel of narrow streets, surrounded by apartment buildings eight stories high. Blowing in the breeze from dozens of the balconies that belong to each apartment is the rainbow-striped flag with the word Pace, meaning “Peace.” More than a million of these flags are flying from households all over Italy.
Most Italians know I’m an American just by looking at me. During my time in this country, many have approached me with their message for America: “Tell America, peace not war.” Some add: “Peace is God’s way.”
The Italian culture has been conscious of the symmetry between war and the death penalty since at least 1764, before America became a country. That is the year when Cesare Beccaria, an Italian writer of the Enlightenment, published his book On Crimes And Punishments. In it he asserts, based on reason alone, that the death penalty is war by the state against a single citizen, and can only be justified if the death of that citizen is absolutely necessary to protect society.
Now, in the post-modern era, our Pope John Paul II has warned us that the death penalty is cruel, unnecessary and, morally, cannot be utilized unless there is no other way to protect innocent life in society. Faith and reason have kissed.
The Pope has also admonished us that war must be our last resort, that war cannot be embarked upon unless there are no other possible means to protect innocent life from an unjust aggressor. The Seamless Garment of the Value of Human Life is clear in his teachings.
As our procession turns onto Via Pallanza, only one block from the confluence of the mighty Po River and the River Dora, two men tap me on the shoulder. They are pointing to the front of the crowd. It takes a moment for me to realize that I’m being asked to carry the cross.
Now an American is at the lead of the Palm Sunday procession. We turn to the left on Via Oropa heading back toward the church. The elderly standing on their balconies genuflect and sign themselves with the Cross as we pass. Their rainbow-colored flags are billowing. Some mouth words toward me with a wave of entreaty: “Pace! Tell America, Pace!”
First published: The Florida Catholic, April 17, 2003
© 2003 Dale S. Recinella & The Florida Catholic
Used with permission. All rights reserved.
No further reproduction or republication without prior written permission.
I Was In Prison
News & Updates
This ezine is targeted for people involved in prison ministry or in stopping the death penalty, we think you will find helpful information for people who are undecided about capital punishment, for those who have never experienced the inside of a jail or prison, and for those who feel called to participate through prayer and adoration.
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Dale S. Recinella
, Catholic Lay Chaplain, Florida Death Row and Solitary Confinement
Susan M. Recinella
, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed