CHARLESTON — Jurors unanimously agreed to sentence Dylann Roof to death for killing nine black churchgoers, but the local Catholic bishop has reiterated the Catholic Church’s opposition to the use of capital punishment.
“We are all sinners, but through the father’s loving mercy and Jesus’s redeeming sacrifice upon the cross, we have been offered the gift of eternal life,” said Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone of Charleston, S.C.
“The Catholic opposition to the death penalty, therefore, is rooted in God’s mercy. The church believes the right to life is paramount to every other right as it affords the opportunity for conversion, even of the hardened sinner,” he added.
“Sentencing Dylann Roof to death conflicts with the church’s teaching that all human life is sacred, even for those who have committed the most heinous of crimes. Instead of pursuing death, we should be extending compassion and forgiveness to Mr. Roof, just as some of the victims’ families did at his bond hearing in June 2015,” the bishop added.
The jury had to reach a unanimous decision to sentence Roof to death. In closing statements before the deliberation Jan. 10, the unrepentant 22-year-old Roof told jurors that “I still feel like I had to do it,” the Associated Press reported.
Had they disagreed, he would have been automatically sentenced to life in prison. He was convicted of 33 federal charges last month, including hate crimes. Roof acted as his own attorney and did not question any witnesses. In his FBI confession, he said he hoped the massacre would bring back segregation or start a race war, the Associated Press reported.
Guglielmone offered prayers of support for those who were killed and their families.
“Our Catholic faith sustains our solidarity with and support for the victims of the Emanuel AME Church massacre and their relatives. We commit ourselves to walk with these family members as well as the survivors as they continue to heal from the trial and this tragedy,” he said.
The bishop asked people to continue to pray for the victims, survivors and families connected with the shooting. He also encouraged people to pray for Roof and his family.
“May he acknowledge his sins, convert to the Lord and experience his loving mercy,” Bishop Guglielmone said.
Reverend Clementa Pinckney, pastor of Emanuel AME Church, Tywanza Sanders, Reverend Sharonda Singleton, Reverend DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Reverend Daniel Simmons Sr., Reverend Cynthia Hurd, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lance, and Susie Jackson were killed in the shooting.
Contributing to this report was The Catholic Miscellany, newspaper of the Diocese of Charleston, S.C.