VATICAN CITY Governor Bill Richardson met Pope Benedict on Wednesday before commemorating New Mexico's repeal of the death penalty with a ceremony at Rome's Colosseum.
Richardson, a former Democratic presidential candidate and one of the most prominent U.S. Hispanic politicians, met the pope for several minutes at the end of the pontiff's weekly general audience at the Vatican, Richardson's spokesman said.
The two discussed New Mexico's repeal of the death penalty last month, among other issues, the spokesman added.
Richardson formerly supported capital punishment and described to Reuters his change in position as "probably the most difficult political decision in my life."
He said the repeal was a positive step for his country.
"It signals that America is moving the right way on abolishing the death penalty, especially when a Western conservative state like New Mexico takes the lead," Richardson said.
Later, Richardson and Santa Fe's archbishop attended an event honouring the repeal of the death penalty with the special lighting of Rome's Colosseum.
New Mexico was the 15th U.S. state to abandon capital punishment, according to the Death Penalty Information Centre.
(Writing by Phil Stewart; editing by Robert Woodward)