- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 15, 2009

ROME (AP) - The governor of the American state of New Mexico said Wednesday that the world is moving toward abolishing the death penalty and urged the United States to follow.

Gov. Bill Richardson was in Rome to take part in a ceremony at the Colosseum, which was lit Wednesday night to mark his decision to end the death penalty in New Mexico. Richardson also met with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican.

Richardson, a Democrat, signed a bill last month abolishing the death penalty for crimes committed after July 1, replacing it with life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“I didn’t want America to continue being isolated with this position, because the world was moving in another direction,” he said. “It’s about time that America starts, along with the rest of the world, following in abolishing the death penalty.”

He spoke at a news conference organized by the Sant’Egidio Community, an international lay organization of the Roman Catholic Church that opposes capital punishment.

New Mexico became the second state to ban executions since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. New Jersey was the first, in 2007.

Richardson met with the pope at the end of Benedict’s weekly general audience at the Vatican. He said the pontiff was informed of the bill and was “very positive, and thanked me for that.” The Vatican opposes the death penalty.

The Colosseum has become a symbol of the global fight against capital punishment. Since 1999, the ancient Roman arena has been illuminated every time a death sentence is commuted somewhere in the world or a government abolishes capital punishment.

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