New Jersey Greek Orthodox Spiritual Leader on Death Penalty
His Eminence, Metropolitan EVANGELOS of New Jersey, on behalf of the
Greek Orthodox Faithful of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of New
Jersey, and in particular of those residing within the State of New
Jersey, applauds and congratulates the Honorable Governor Jon Corzine
and the esteemed Lawmakers of the State of New Jersey for their
recent decision in signing a death penalty bill into law that
repealed the death penalty in the State of New Jersey.
The State of New Jersey has thus become the first State within the
Greek Orthodox Metropolis of New Jersey, which is comprised of the
States of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Greater
Philadelphia, as well as the first State in the Union since the U.S.
Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, to pass such a
historical measure, thus setting the tone for other States to follow
in the renouncing of capital punishment.
In a letter addressed to Governor Corzine, Metropolitan Evangelos, as
the Spiritual Leader of all Greek Orthodox Christians in the
Mid-Atlantic States, wrote, "I applaud your resolve and conviction to
uphold the sanctity of life, thus honoring our Creator and God who
alone has the authority to give life and to end life. Indeed, human
life is deserving of deep respect and individual human beings are to
be treated in accordance to their inherent human dignity. The
abolishment of the death penalty is a step in that direction, of
restoring human dignity to the sinner, for we are to hate the sin,
but love the sinner, praying for their repentance and subsequent
reconciliation with God and society."
The Greek Orthodox Church throughout its history in interpreting the
Holy Scriptures has always placed the highest priority on the
preservation of life, as according to its Faith Tradition, every
human has been made "in the image and likeness of God." As such, the
human being is the most precious of all God's creation and is subject
to divine law, of which "Thou shall not kill," is of the preeminent
statutes. In accordance with Orthodox Tradition and Teaching, human
beings do not have the moral or divine right to take the life of
another human being.
In today's contemporary society, which is part of the fallen
humanity, sin has entered the world and is prevalent in the fallen
nature of man himself, who has fallen out of grace and commits sin,
such as taking the life of another. The Orthodox Church exhorts its
faithful to show compassion and mercy towards the transgressor, while
at the same time abhorring the transgression, allowing Almighty God
to judge. It is in this spirit of humility of placing divine law over
human law that Metropolitan Evangelos has expressed his joy at the
passing of this recent legislation which also serves as a precaution
of wrongly taking the life of the innocent.
It is His Eminence's prayer and hope that legislators in the other
states under his spiritual jurisdiction, namely Maryland, Virginia,
Delaware and Pennsylvania, will follow and imitate the bold
initiative of Governor Corzine and New Jersey's lawmakers and bring
an end to capital punishment, giving justice and the sanctity of life
an opportunity to flourish.