Iraq's High Tribunal on Sunday found Saddam guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced him to death by hanging. However, Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Vatican's Council for Justice and Peace, said carrying out the death sentence would be an unjustifiably vindictive action, reported Reuters.
"For me, punishing a crime with another crime, which is what killing for vindication is, would mean that we are still at the point of demanding an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," he was quoted as saying by Italian news agency Ansa.
"Unfortunately, Iraq is one of the few countries that have not yet made the civilized choice of abolishing the death penalty," he said.
The Church is generally against the death penalty. It argues that modern society has all the means necessary to render a criminal harmless for the rest of his natural life without capital punishment.
Fr. Michele Simone, deputy director of the Jesuit journal Civilta Cattolica, told Vatican Radio that opposing the death penalty does not mean accepting what the former leader has done.
"Certainly, the situation in Iraq will not be resolved by this death sentence. Many Catholics, myself included, are against the death penalty as a matter of principle," the Jesuit priest was quoted as saying.
"Even in a situation like Iraq, where there are hundreds of de facto death sentences every day, adding another death to this toll will not serve anything," he said.
The death sentence automatically goes to a nine-judge appeals panel, which has unlimited time to review the case. If the verdict and sentence are upheld, Iraqi law stipulates that the execution must be carried out within 30 days.
.- Vatican officials said Sunday that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein should not be put to death, even though he has been found guilty of committing crimes against humanity.