22 - 25 February 2015, the European Conference of the International Commission of Catholic Prison Pastoral Care (ICCPPC-Europe) has been held in Vienna at the Academy of Penal Service Austria (Strafvollzugsakademie). The meeting was an important international event in Catholic prison chaplaincy in a year we mark the 65th anniversary of the founding of the organization. Vienna conference focused on the implementation of decisions of the previous meeting held in London. Delegates reviewed the results of the working groups to revive ties between European representatives of the Catholic ministry.
The European branch of the ICCPPC acting under the direction of Martin Schmitz (Germany), met in Vienna by the invitation of Dr. Christian Kuhn, the head of the Catholic Pastoral Care of prisoners in Austria. Dr. Christian Kuhn was a president of the International Commission of Catholic Prison Pastoral Care for two terms in 2003 - 2011 and influenced the mobilization of spiritual, intellectual, pastoral and laity resources to awaken attention to the church prison ministry. Fr. Robert Friskovec (Slovenia) was a chair of the meeting.
Participants of the conference presented the state of criminal justice and activity of pastoral care for prisoners and prison staff. Developments in Ukraine highlighted Fr. Constantin Panteley, Head of The UGCC Office for Pastoral Care in Penitentiary System of Ukraine. In particular, he reported about the status of chaplaincy and volunteer ministry, as well as of the Ukrainian Christian interdenominational mission "Religious and charitable care in prisons", about reform of the prison system. Fr. Constantin has explained the work on proposals for the second reading of the bill on prison chaplaincy. Especially for the Protection of the Sacrament of Penance. The lively interest aroused new laws adopted in February 2015 by the Ukrainian parliament in penitentiary and prison chaplaincy areas. All delegates expressed strong support and solidarity with the Ukrainian people passing through the ordeal of war.
On February 24 the participants analyzed the ADDRESS OF POPE FRANCIS TO THE DELEGATES OF THE INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF PENAL LAW, delivered in Rome in October 23, 2014. "Introduction reforms in justice system are needed throughout Ukraine to survive. The Address of Pope Francis to Lawyers important because it exposed socialogical causes of desire for revenge and punitive populism, corruption and inhumanity in the criminal justice and prison! - Shared about Constantin Panteley: - Pope claims that Corruption is "a greater ill than sin", because impunity of corruptionists themselves."
Thus the conference has been attended by Michael K. Platzer, Liaison of Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS), Chair of Vienna NGO Alliance on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. He reported about the intergovernmental meeting of experts to review and reform the Standard Minimum Rules (SMRs) for the treatment of prisoners, held in Vienna on 25 - 28 March 2014. Knowledge of Standard Minimum Rules is important to be prepared as prison chaplains, as prison service staff.
President of the Regional Court of Vienna in Criminal Matters, Dr. Frederick Forsthuber introduced the history and peculiarities of the contemporary Austrian Criminal Justice: Misdemeanor should be heard by a panel of one professional judge and two lay assessors. In cases of serious crimes the board consists aditionaly of 8 nonprofessionals. For criminal acts that do not a significant danger to the interests of the state, society or individuals, penalties are reduced or replaced by a fine or a short-term arrest. For the first time the death penalty for crimes was abolished in 1919, but imposed again in 1933 by Nazis. Finally Austria rejected the death penalty in 1950. The participants of the conference commemorated the victims of political persecution by the Nazis after the Anschluss of Austria 1938 - 1945 Among them, Blessed Sister Mary Restytuta.
"The meetings have taken place at the premises of the Vienna Academy of Penitentiary Service, in Vienna Remand Prison, in the hall of Vienna Regional Court, - shared about the event Fr. Constantine, - it gave me and other participants a chance to be closer acquainted with how the justice system, prison staff called "guardians of justice" (Justizwache), chaplaincy (Gefängnisseelsorge), psychologists, teachers and social workers are functioning. I was particularly impressed by the work of Nico, assistant of chaplain, a layman who combines a variety of skills that make him indispensable: katehist, logist, social worker, interpreter possessing 5 European languages, a driver!"
The conference has ended on February 25. Delegates affirmed the necessity of growing cooperation and exchanges of visits, especially between countries in Central and Eastern Europe and the work ICCPPC to enrich the theological, pastoral and practical background of ministry.
The International Commission of Catholic Prison Pastoral Care (ICCPPC) was founded at the International Congress in Rome in the Holy Year 1950 with the participation of the general prison chaplains from many European countries, United States and Argentina. Congress was convened on behalf of the Secretary of State of the Vatican, the future Pope Paul VI, who was recently beatified. The ICCPPC, which activity is based on the Canon Law of the Catholic Church, now brings together delegates and associate members of more than 100 countries, including Ukraine. The organization operates under the authority of the Congregation for the Clergy and in collaboration with the Pontifical Council "Justice and Peace". Decisions are taken by majority of votes of delegates from national episcopal conferences and synods. ICCPPC presented at the United Nations, and posses the special consultative status. The objectives of the Commission - to awaken and encourage, within the Catholic Church and in society more understanding and sensitivity concerning the prison pastoral ministry. To stir respective Episcopal Conferences and local Ordinariate to revive and develop pastoral mission of the Church in prisons, giving a better support. To organize regular courses for the formation, training prison pastoral ministers. To promote humanization, review and reform of the prison system in the world.
Penitentiary pastoral of the UGCC
Penitentiary pastoral of the UGCC