– The South Korean bishops’ conference has called for an end to the death penalty, and asked the nation’s Constitutional Court to consider whether capital punishment violates South Korea’s constitution.

“The capital punishment system treats criminals not as human beings capable of moral reflection and improvement, but simply as a means of defending society. If the aim were to permanently segregate criminals to protect society, that could certainly be achieved through life imprisonment or penal servitude without the possibility of parole, which represent less of a restriction on basic rights,” the bishops said in their constitutional appeal, filed Feb. 12.

“All individuals’ lives possess the same value, and that life is of absolute significance to each individual,” a spokesman for the bishops’ campaign told the Hankyoreh newspaper.

“It is no different even for criminals who have committed atrocious acts that violate and harm the life and human rights of others.”

The South Korean bishops have collected the signatures of 102,517 South Koreans requesting that capital punishment be replaced by life imprisonment, Hankyoreh reported.

The nation’s Constitutional Court has ruled previously, both in 1996 and in 2010, that the death penalty does not violate the South Korean constitution.

61 people await execution on South Korea’s death row, according to death penalty abolition groups, but no one has been executed in the country since 1997.

Pope Francis has been an outspoken opponent of the death penalty, revising the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 2018 to call execution “inadmissible.”

There are nearly 6 million Catholics in South Korea, comprising more than 10 percent of the country’s population.