A Prayer Vigil to abolish the death penalty will be held at the Cathedral of St. Ignatius Loyola . This vigil will begin a half hour before the scheduled 6 p.m. execution of death row inmate John Henry on June 18 for the 1985 murders of this estranged wife, Suzanne Henry, and her son Eugene Christian. We join in prayer for them.
Catholic Charities' Respect Life Office in partnership with the Diocese of Palm Beach and Pax Christi will host the vigil. During the prayer service, those in attendance will pray for the victims of violent crimes, those who are on death row and their respective families. A short prayer service will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Chapel. Following, the vigil will process for a silent vigil in front of the Cathedral from 5:45 p.m. - 6:15 p.m. Similar prayer vigils will take place at the same time around the state (see attached press release in top right of page).
The Florida Catholic Conference appeals to Governor Rick Scott to commute the sentence of Mr. Henry. The Conference acknowledges the severity of the crimes for which Mr. Henry has been found guilty; however, taking his life is unnecessary and promotes revenge under the guise of justice. A life sentence without possibility of parole punishes the offender, allows for both repentance and forgiveness, and acknowledges that all human life is sacred. So long as society can be protected, a sentence of life, rather than a sentence of death, is the proper course of action.
Pope Francis reminds us of the capacity of people to repent and the need to rely on God’s merciful judgment rather than on the human desire for revenge. The Holy Father stated in his 2014 World Day of Peace message, “…human beings can experience conversion; they must never despair of being able to change their lives. I wish this to be a message of hope and confidence for all, even for those who have committed brutal crimes, for God does not wish the death of the sinner, but that he converts and lives” (cf. Ezekiel 18:23).
Catholic faithful and members of the community are invited to gather in solidarity at the times and locations listed in our attached Bishops' press release to pray for the victims of violent crimes and their families, for persons on death row awaiting execution, and for the end to the use of the death penalty. Each (arch)diocese in the state will hold a prayer vigil on June 18, with some conducting prayer vigils at multiple locations.
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The Florida Catholic Conference is an agency of the Catholic Bishops of Florida. The archbishop and bishops of the seven (arch)dioceses in Florida constitute its board of directors.