NEW MEXICO DP REPEAL CELEBRATION IN ROME
- Dear Death Penalty Activist,
Below is a description of the celebration of the New Mexico Repeal of
the Death Penalty in Rome. This is truly heady stuff. The
transformation of Gov. Richardson is remarkable.
If we can do it in New Mexico we can do it in California.
The Colosseo Shines for New Mexico
Posted by Elizabeth Zitrin, IOCP Coordinator on April 15th, 2009
Illuminated Colosseum in Rome
The Ancient Colosseum of Rome shines for the Abolition of the Death
Penalty in New Mexico
Whoever was in charge of the weather today in Rome did a great job. It
could not have been more perfect - a perfect day for a conservative
Western American state to feel the embrace of the civilized world. Now
that's what I'm talking about! The America I believe in does not
torture or execute people, and we are working together to restore
America to a position of pride and admiration in the world. Today, in
Rome, Americans were admired. We can get used to it.
This morning, Santa Fe Archbishop Michael Sheehan escorted the New
Mexico delegation to a position of honor at the Papal Audience,
introduced Governor Richardson to the Pope and spoke of abolition of the
death penalty. The voice of the church has a very broad reach, and
when it speaks of abolition it has enormous power.
Then back to Sant'Egidio <http://www.santegidio.org> for a very well
attended press conference. Our World Coalition partner Mario Marazziti,
spokesperson of the Community of Sant'Egidio, is impressario of an
extraordinary series of events, planning everything from the grandest
gestures to the smallest details, from the press conference to a
birthday candle in the tiramisu for a member of the Archbishop's party.
And of course, the drama of the Colosseo. Perhaps even the perfect weather?
Governor Richardson is a media star here. He is naturally charismatic,
and Italians, like many Europeans, are fascinated by American politics -
particularly American Presidential politics - and the governor is a
large and familiar figure. He said that his role was only the two
seconds it took to sign the bill into law. Not quite true, of course.
He is an intelligent and thoughtful man, and he thought and read and
considered a great deal before changing his mind about the death
penalty, convinced, he said, by the American record of wrongful
convictions in capital cases - up to 131 exonerations as of today - by
the availability in New Mexico of the awful penalty of permanent
imprisonment, and by his growing awareness that the United States is
being left behind by the world - left behind with human rights abusers
like China and Saudi Arabia.
But of course, as he acknowledged, the real heroes of New Mexico's
journey to Abolition are State Representative Gail Chasey, who has been
fighting this battle for over a decade in the legislature, and Viki
Elkey, Executive Director of the New Mexico Coalition to Repeal the
Death Penalty. These two extraordinary women, and the thousands of
people in New Mexico and beyond who worked with them, have accomplished
something spectacular, and one piece of their reward tonight was the
illumination of the ancient Coliseum of Rome in their honor, and in
honor of their state's achievement.
Posted in Blog
<http://deathpenalty.org/article.php?list=class&type=22&class=20> | no
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson in Rome
Posted by Elizabeth Zitrin, IOCP Coordinator on April 14th, 2009
Governor Bill Richardson and Elizabeth Zitrin
Rome in Spring is a city in celebration of life. It is Easter season, of
course, and Passover, the Jewish holiday of liberation from tyranny and
slavery. All of the pale greens and the purples of new blossoms climb
the ancient walls, and life is in renewal.
This week, there is another message of life in The Eternal City. The
Community of Sant'Egidio has invited New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson
for a ceremony marking his state's repeal of the death penalty. The
ancient Colosseo of Rome will be illuminated with the "thumbs up" symbol
for life, from the time of the ruling emperors and the gladiators who
fought to the death in this arena thousands of years ago. The emperor
could save a life by signaling with his thumb.
When lives are saved by a retreat from government execution, Sant'Egidio
and the City of Rome light the Coliseum in celebration.
Sant'Egidio is a partner of Death Penalty Focus in the World Coalition
Against the Death Penalty. I am here representing both DPF and the World
Coalition, as Chair of its USA Working Group, to celebrate, and to mark
another step in the journey of the United States toward international
standards of human rights, and complete abolition of the death penalty.
On Tuesday evening, April 14, Monsignor Marco, a priest of the Community
of Sant'Egidio, celebrated mass in the beautiful Basilica of Santa Maria
in Trastevere, the neighbor and frequent home of Sant'Egidio. The
basilica dates to the 4th Century, with spectacular 13th Century mosaics
in the apse. The service was highlighted with beautiful singing by a
small Sant'Egidio choir. I was in the back of the church but was lucky
enough to have a beautiful tenor next to me. The whole church seems to
vibrate with the harmonies. Father Marco talked about the distinguished
delegation from New Mexico, which included Governor Bill Richardson and
Santa Fe Bishop Michael Sheehan, as well as Viki Elkey from the New
Mexico Coalition to Repeal the Death Penalty, and Representative Gail
Chasey. He celebrated the saving of life, another abolition of a
government system of death.
Viki Elkey is animated, energetic in spite a very long journey, with the
open, charming warmth that has helped make her such a successful
advocate for abolition. Gail Chasey is drinking in the beautiful
surroundings. She deserves so much of the credit for this victory.
After Mass, we walked the few steps to the next, small, cobble-stoned
Piazza, to the small church of Sant'Egidio, through the lovely garden
with an incongruous banana tree -- from the time the Community conducted
peace negotiations between the government and guerrillas in Mozambique
-- into the old Refectory, for a celebration dinner to honor the repeal
of the the death penalty in New Mexico.
Gov. Richardson seems delighted to be here, and on this occasion. He is
relaxed, attentive to everyone, eager to chat, genuinely pleased to be
in this company -- people who are so congratulatory of his signing of
the repeal. He smiles easily. Everyone is happy at dinner, and animated,
Americans seated between Italian members of the Sant'Egidio Community. I
spend a good part of dinner talking with Prof. Leonardo Palombi, a
doctor, who directs Sant'Egidio's Dream Project which runs HIV/AIDS
clinics in Africa.
The New Mexicans headed back to their hotel near the Vatican and I
walked with our host, Sant'Egidio Spokesperson Mario Marazziti, through
his neighborhood of Trastevere. He has more energy than most teenagers,
and has spent the day, as he often does, escorting, narrating, directing
and always persuading. He is a great friend and a valuable partner in
the World Coalition, and, close to midnight, he could wind down until
the morning. I am staying in room nearby, and in a lovely cap to a very
busy day, Mario said I'm becoming a real Trasteverina.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]