RUSSIA. LIFE IMPRISONMENT MAY BE WORSE THAN DEATH - CHURCH OFFICIAL
October 25, 2005: Father Mikhail Dudko, the public relations head of the Moscow Patriarchate's Foreign Church Relations Department, said that while discussing whether or not the moratorium on the death penalty should be lifted in Russia, one should be aware that life imprisonment may prove to be a more severe punishment than death.
"When punishment for criminals is being discussed, including such horrendous criminals as terrorists who seize schoolchildren, it's difficult to say what would be worse punishment for them - life imprisonment in a Russian prison or instant death," Father Dudko said.
"I hear that prison authorities can sometimes create such conditions for inmates, within the limits of the law, which make the prisoner repent of his deeds a hundred times," Father Mikhail said.
However, the death penalty should not be enforced in Russia given the high probability of the court error, he said. "No one should fear that a criminal will remain unpunished. God is the Supreme Judge who no one can escape. His punishment will be proportional to the crime committed," he said.
Many of those who oppose the death penalty say its banning is proper from the church's point of view, he said.
"The Social Principles of the Russian Orthodox Church," passed in 2000, says that the Holy Scriptures give no indication of the necessity of abolishing the death penalty. "Moreover, in olden days, such punishment was directly instituted," he said.
"But we, in the absence of a formal ban on the death penalty, are often asked to display mercy for criminals. Our church leadership welcomes the decision to introduce a moratorium on the death penalty in Russia," he said. (Sources: Interfax News Service, 25/10/2005)