Statement of Episcopal Divinity School Interim President and Dean the Very Rev. Francis Fornaro on the Death Penalty

As a community of study and spiritual formation striving to serve and advance God’s mission of justice, compassion, and reconciliation, I and many of my colleagues and students at Episcopal Divinity School have prayerfully followed the trial of the now convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Since the hours and days following the bombings, I and many others in this community have prayed for the victims of this senseless act of violence and terrorism: for the souls of those who lost their lives, for those who bear the scars of their injuries, and for the families and friends who grieve for their loved ones. We have also prayed for those who perpetrated these terrible crimes.

We pray for the victims and for the perpetrators because each of us is called to be an instrument of God’s peace in the world, to speak the truth of the Gospel of love and forgiveness, and to work for humane justice, compassion, and reconciliation. That call is at the core of Episcopal Divinity School’s mission of preparing our students for lay and ordained ministries of social and personal transformation.

Because we believe in the dignity of every human being and the sanctity of life, we strongly oppose the death sentence on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev handed down by the jury last week. Government sanctioned death as a punishment for crimes of murder flies in the face of what is most sacred: human life.  Murder for murder cannot be the answer to the realization of a just and wholesome world. The death penalty should not be an option for juries to consider when determining sentences for those deemed guilty of serious crimes, and we must work to abolish the death penalty wherever it still exists.

We will continue to pray for the victims, their families and loved ones, and for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev—as we pray for all victims of murder, violence, abuse, oppression, and exclusion, and those who perpetrate those crimes, and that our whole creation becomes one of peace, justice, and reconciliation.

The Very Rev. Francis Fornaro

Interim President and Dean

Episcopal Divinity School


About Episcopal Divinity School

Episcopal Divinity School (EDS) is a progressive seminary and theological graduate school for lay and ordained leaders of all denominations. Committed to a mission of social justice and inclusive education and grounded in the Anglican tradition, EDS awards Master’s degrees in Divinity and Theological Studies, Doctoral degrees in Ministry, and Certificates in Anglican Formation; Justice, Reconciliation, and Mission; and Christian Spiritualities for the Contemporary World.

EDS graduates serve as lay and ordained ministers of the Episcopal Church as well as in other Christian denominations. They are also leaders in a variety of professions and industries, including non-profit executives, mental health professionals, social workers, community organizers, academics, artists, and writers, often in addition to their work as clergy or church leaders.

EDS is a member of the Boston Theological Institute, a consortium of ten eminent theological schools, seminaries, and departments of religion in the Boston area.

A seminary for the Episcopal Church, Episcopal Divinity School is grounded in the Anglican tradition and committed to growing in relationship with other Christian and faith traditions. Episcopal Divinity School is an academic community of biblical, historical, and theological inquiry that respects students as responsible learners with valuable experience, supports spiritual and ministerial formation, and provides tools for the life-long work of social and personal transformation.