Service with slices: SF priest preaches against death penalty
Before sharing pizza at a special Mass celebrated on San Francisco's Civic Center plaza, a flock of some 20 parishoners were reminded that Jesus suffered the death penalty.
Ten pizza pies were divided among the congregants, including homeless people. This banquet doubled as an anti-capital punishment rally. One of the signs read, "Jesus was a victim of the death penalty."
Today's service, conducted by street preacher Father River Sims, commemorated the third anniversary of the execution of Philip Workman. Workman died by lethal injection on May 9, 2007 in Tennessee after his conviction of killing a police officer in a botched robbery.
Before he died, Workman forgoed his last meal and asked that a vegetarian pizza be given to any homeless person near the prison where he was executed. Prison officials denied the request. Media coverage of Workman's final request spurred a Nashville rescue mission to serve 150 pizzas to local homeless people.
In his sermon, Sims told the congregation about the effects of state-sponsored executions.
"To kill a person is costly, costly in the humanity of those doing the killing," Sims said before the communion. "Taking a life only begets hatred and taking more life."
Before the service, Sims said homelessness and the death penalty claim the same victims.
"Many people on death row are from disadvanatged backgrounds -- blacks, Latinos, very low-income," he said. "So are the homeless."
Rob Perry, a homeless person, only learned about the service one hour earlier and was intrigued by Workman's last act.
"It must be hard (for Workman) to make that last request for the homeless," Perry said. "He didn't ask something just for himself."
Today's meal was paid by Carr, Yeley and Associates, a San Mateo-based law firm.