After making what he described as “the most difficult decision in my political life,” Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico was given a front-row seat at a papal audience and saw Rome’s Colosseum lit up in honor of his state. Governor Richardson signed a bill on March 18 abolishing the death penalty in New Mexico. Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan of Santa Fe said he introduced the governor to Pope Benedict, saying, “Holy Father, this is our governor and he just repealed the death penalty.” The archbishop added, “And the pope nodded very happily in agreement.” Richardson, a Democrat and a Catholic, had been a supporter of the death penalty; he also supports legalized abortion and embryonic stem-cell research, which the church opposes. Archbishop Sheehan said, “We were able to help him understand our opposition to the death penalty and he did indeed change his view and signed the law. One thing at a time.” The archbishop pointed out that it was not the Vatican or the Catholic Church that was officially honoring Richardson, but the Catholic lay Community of Sant’Egidio.
Richardson Honored in Rome