A Christian Liturgy Against the Death Penalty–CPF

Opening Prayer by Sr. Helen Prejean

God of compassion You let your rain fall on the just and the unjust. 

Expand and deepen our hearts

so that we may love as You love,

even those among us

who have caused the greatest pain by taking life.

For there is in our land a great cry for vengeance

as we fill up death row and kill the killers

in the name of justice, in the name of peace.

Jesus, our brother,

you suffered execution at the hands of the state

but you did not let hatred overcome you.

Help us to reach out to victims of violence

so that our enduring love may help them heal.

 Holy Spirit of God,

You strengthen us in the struggle for justice,

help us to work tirelessly for the abolition of state-sanctioned death

and to renew our society in its very heart

so that violence will be no more.





CPF Sample Prayer

Let us pray. Loving God, be with us as we pray for all those affected by violence. We pray for victims of violent deaths.

We pray for healing for their families and friends. Comfort and heal all those whose loved ones have died through violence in California.

We pray for men and women on California’s death row waiting to die a violent death. We pray for their family and friends — for their comfort and consolation.

We pray for a spirit of repentance and redemption in the world, making us forgiving and forgiven people of God.

We remember our own acts of violence and hatred — as individuals, as part of our cultures, and as a nation. Forgive us, loving God.

We pray for our Nation and the State of California to bring an end to the death penalty.

We pray that all those who do not see the injustice and futility of the death penalty might be moved by our words and actions; that they read and reflect on our strong and bold statement of faith relating to the death penalty; and by God’s mercy come to a change of heart, turning vengeance into clear thinking and hardness of heart into compassion. 





Readings from Holy Scriptures

Genesis 9:6 ESV

“Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.


Exodus 21:12 ESV .

“Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death.


Romans 12:19 ESV / 53 .

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”


Exodus 20:13 ESV / 48 .

“You shall not murder.”


Matthew 5:43-44 .

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,


Matthew 5:7 ESV .

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.


Matthew 5:38-39 .

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Homily: Partial Samples

“We should be clear about what happens when we destroy the living forms of this planet. The first consequence is that we destroy modes of divine presence.” Thomas Berry.  When we destroy any life in vengeance, we destroy the very essence of life—the divine spark within each one of us.

Sample Homily for Respect Life Month, October, 2015— California Catholic Conference

The Catholic faith tradition “offers a unique perspective on crime and punishment, one grounded in mercy and healing, not punishment for its own sake, “twp bishops said in a statement renewing the U.S. Catholic church’s push to end the death penalty.

“No matter how heinous the crime, if society can protect itself without ending a human life, it should do so. Today, we have this capability,” wrote Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston and Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami.

Some family members of murder victims have given us very clear and courageous examples of a Gospel pro-life response.  Aba Gayle’s college age daughter was kidnapped and murdered.  She was devastated and lived with the grief and hatred for many years.  She finally came to the realization that she had to forgive her daughter’s killer so that she could get her own life back.  She wrote to him, expressed the devastation that he had brought into her life but also told him that she forgave him.  Remembering that we are all created in God’s image, she ended her letter with “The Jesus in me sends blessings to the Jesus in you.”

Teresa Flores had one son.  He was 18 years old and ready to start college.  He was killed walking home from school.  The prosecutor in her son’s killer’s case approached Teresa and asked if she would help him get the death penalty in this case.  She simply looked into his eyes and said “And break another mother’s heart!”  She realized the pain that her son’s death brought into her life and did not want any other mother to have to go through that.  She realized that the death penalty simply created another set of victims.

Mother Teresa sums it up simply: “If there is no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”  Today we remember who we are: brothers and sisters in Christ.  Today we celebrate the love that binds us together as one.  Today we reject the calls for death and darkness




Intercessory Prayers/Prayers of the People


For men and women who sit on death row

awaiting the end of their life,

that we might pray for them

with compassion and care;

We pray to the Lord


For those who have lost hope,

and especially for those condemned to die,

that we might work to save their lives;

We pray to the Lord.


For those condemned to die,

and especially for men and women on death row,

that their plight might move the hearts of the people of this nation;

We pray to the Lord


For the guards on death row,

and all who touch the lives of those condemned to die:

for compassion, respect,

and an appreciation of the dignity of all human life;

We pray to the Lord.


Closing Prayer

May the God who is not a vengeful God lure our souls into a love so great that NO ONE can be considered an enemy. Go in peace, in the Name of the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit.