Darrell Mease had been convicted of murdering a drug partner and two others in 1998 and had been scheduled to be executed on Wednesday. The state Supreme Court postponed the execution until February in December, apparently because of the Holy Father's visit to St. Louis this week, although the court denied the claim.
Now, Gov. Mel Carnahan has decided to accede to the Pope's plea for mercy. "In reaching this decision, I took into account the extraordinary circumstances of the pope's request and the historical significance of the papal visit to St. Louis and the state of Missouri," Carnahan said in a statement. He emphasized that he still supports capital punishment.
The Holy Father said in his homily during Mass at the Trans World Dome on Wednesday that the death penalty is "both cruel and unnecessary." He said human life must not be taken away "even in case of someone who has done great evil." The pontiff added that society could protect itself against criminals without "definitively denying criminals the chance to reform."
Following the Mass, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano invited Carnahan to Archbishop Justin Rigali's residence to discuss Mease's execution.
Father Georges Lalouz from France and Father Lucien Favre from Switzerland arrived in the oil port town of Pointe Noire on Wednesday night. They went missing from the southern oil town of Dolisie on Monday, along with seven other Europeans, following intense fighting between government soldiers and rebels.
The priests and many residents of Dolisie had fled on foot to seek refuge in Pointe Noire, some 60 miles further south. It was not clear if they walked the entire distance but rebels have practically crippled all rail and road traffic in the jungle south. The seven laymen reportedly worked for the Congolese timber company SOCOBOIS.
More than 1.5 million people were killed at Auschwitz and the nearby Birkenau, most of the Jews, but also including Catholics, Gypsies, Soviets, and others. The toll of the dead included St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Edith Stein. On January 27, 1945, the Soviet Red Army marching toward Berlin found 7,600 sick and exhausted inmates, including 500 children, at the camp in southern Poland that had been evacuated by fleeing Nazis.
About 200 people gathered at a Catholic church in nearby Oswiecim for a Mass and then marched silently to the former camp where they laid flowers at the Death Wall, where 25,000 people were executed.
"I believe the problem can be settled in the People's Consultative Assembly, because the problem cannot be resolved through military violence, but political arrangement," the bishop said. Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas said the issue of East Timor leaving Indonesia could be put before the new People's Consultative Assembly, to be elected in June, if the East Timorese people rejected Jakarta's offer of greater autonomy.
Bishop Belo, the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize winner, said that because the integration of East Timor into Indonesia was deliberated in the assembly, it is now also the responsibility of the same assembly to solve the problem. Similar remarks were also made by prominent Indonesian politician Frans Seda in Jakarta. Indonesia invaded mainly Catholic East Timor in 1975 and annexed it the following year in a move not recognized by the United Nations.
Bishop Belo said he had already suggested to Alatas that East Timor be given "autonomy as great as possible for ten or 15 years and afterwards a referendum should be held." However, the bishop said, the main problem is now that civilians were armed by the military which caused conflict and fighting in many areas in the troubled region.
On Wednesday, a member of the National Commission on Human Rights confirmed that the Indonesian military had handed out hundreds of guns to untrained civilian supporters of Jakarta's rule, raising fears of a bloodbath as the new militia units kill and terrorize civilian supporters of independence.
One of the fallouts of the violence is that one of the oldest churches in East Asia was destroyed in rioting last week, according to police reports on Thursday. The Gereja Tua, or Old Church, was built in Ambon Island -- part of the Spice Islands -- by Portugese colonists in 1780.
Police reported that the church, in the village of Hila-Kaitetu was burned by Muslim rioters last week, killing at least eight people, including a Catholic priest. More than 56 people in total were killed in the riots in the province last week. Hila-Kaitetu is home to about 3,000 Muslims and about 500 Protestants and Catholics, who had fled for the safety of police stations and army bases when the riots began.
Christian and Muslim extremists have clashed in various regions of Indonesia in recent months as the country's economic crisis has worsened and as the majority Muslims have begun to blame the wealthy, minority, ethnic Chinese Christians for the poverty gap.