Aug. 2 (UPI) -- Pope Francis on Thursday announced a change in Roman Catholic teachings about the death penalty, to no longer consider capital punishment acceptable.
The pontiff said the death penalty should not be accepted because it lacks human dignity.
"The church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that the death penalty is inadmissible because it is attentive to the inviolability and dignity of the person," the pope said.
On Thursday, he added the formal change to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a compilation of official church teachings. The pope said the church will work "with determination" to abolish the death penalty worldwide.
"The key point here is really human dignity. The pope is saying that no matter how grievous the crime, someone never loses his or her human dignity," Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said.
The announcement by the Vatican is a reversal in traditional Roman Catholic teachings on the issue.
"For a long time, the recourse to the death penalty by the legitimate authority, after a regular trial, was considered an adequate response to the seriousness of some crimes and an acceptable, even if extreme, means for the protection of the common good," the pope added.
"Today the awareness is growing that the dignity of the person is not lost even after committing serious crimes. Furthermore, a new understanding of the sense of criminal penalties by the state has spread. Finally, more effective detention systems have been developed, which guarantee the proper defense of citizens, but at the same time do not remove the possibility of redemption from the offender."
Pope Francis, a spiritual leader for more than 1 billion Catholics, called for the abolition of the death penalty in 2015.