Students Organize Vigil for Davis on Death Row
Catholic University students gathered on the Pryzbyla Center lawn last week for a prayerful vigil for Troy Davis. Davis was executed later that night by lethal injection in Georgia, after being convicted of the murder of police officer, Mark MacPhail in August 1991. Davis was sentenced to the death penalty despite a lack of concrete evidence and after multiple eyewitnesses retracted their accounts.
This doubt surrounding Davis’ conviction led many political figures to question the legal justice of his execution, while religious leaders took the opportunity to speak out against capital punishment.
Pope Benedict XVI was among those who pleaded for Davis’ life. Despite the objection of powerful figures and protesters as well as the doubt surrounding the conviction, Davis was executed, leaving many questioning the ethics of capital punishment.
Students of Catholic University gathered together in prayer during this peaceful vigil. Over a period of two hours, about thirty Catholic University students joined each other in the rosary and prayers for Davis.
The vigil was organized by CUA student Isaac Farias with the help of the college chapter of Pax Christi, the international Catholic Peace Movement. Farias says that he organized the vigil because “it was the only thing we could do. I didn’t want to just stand around and do nothing.”
Pax Christi’s beliefs are in alignment with those of the Catholic Church, that every human life is sacred. The vigil was also supported by other CUA clubs including Students on the Mount, Students for Life and Knights of Columbus.
The Catholic Church is strongly opposed to capital punishment. In 1995 the late Pope John Paul II published an encyclical, “Evangelium Vitae.” In this publication, the Holy Father justified capital punishment only “in cases of absolute necessity, in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today, however, as a result of steady improvement in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.”
Farias says he hoped the vigil would “raise awareness” about capital punishment and that if students want to get involved in the fight to end capital punishment they can join the nonprofit organization People of Faith against the Death Penalty, or one of the clubs here on campus.