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In Panama has been held the XIV International Congress of Catholic prison ministry

From 6 to 11 February 2017 in Panama the XIV World ICCPPC Congress has been held under the slogan "Are you the Christ?" (Luke 23.39). This event took place in Panama City thanks to the cooperation and support of the Council of Latin American Bishops' Conferences and Hospitality of the Episcopal Conference of Panama. Plenary Assembly has elected the Board of the ICCPPC for the next five years and encouraged further cooperation between pastors and laity in carrying prison ministry. At the Congress was presented a report on the progress and problems of the Catholic Pastoral Care in Ukraine.

Previous ICCPPC XIII World Congress held in Yaounde, Cameroon, 2011. In Panama, participants discussed the challenges and achievements of Catholic pastoral care over the years. In particular, the problem of armed conflicts in the world has caused mass migration, growth of terrorist threats and the increasing number of foreigners in the prisons of Europe. Great recovery of assistance and prison ministry appeared cause of initiated by the Holy Father Pope Francis Extraordinary Jubilee Year of God's Mercy.

During the congressional sessions were outstanding scholars: Dr. Jorge Garcia Cuerva (Argentine), Dr. Xabier Pikaza (Spain), Prof. dr. Theo de Wit (Netherlands)The theme of theological reflections on the Congress has been focused on the event on Calvary, when one of crucified robbers provoked Jesus in an attempt to save his life, This earns him a rebuke from the other robber. This scenario presents chaplains with many challenges including the role of mercy, raising self-esteem and accepting responsibility for their actions in the hope that one day we will be with Jesus in Paradise. Analyzing the prison pastoral care in the world participants of the Congress tried to "recognize the crucified Christ in the present." The Church is trying to serve all people, as the Lord did, especially attentive to the most needy, with whom Jesus identified Himself, "I was in prison and you visited me" (Mt. 25:36). Part of the pastoral mission of the Church - to protect human rights and to overcome the difference between the letter and the spirit of these rights.

Plenary has elected the Executive Board of the Commission. President is Fr. Brian Gowans (UK) and Vice President  Fr. Jorge García Cuervo (Argentina). The Congress was made to encourage closer cooperation chaplains countries united geographically. By mutual support and development of theological, legal and social components prison chaplaincy. Congress participants adopted a final declaration.

Historical information.

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 newly established Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. This organ is competent particularly in issues regarding migrants, those in need, the sick, the excluded and marginalized, the imprisoned and the unemployed, as well as victims of armed conflict, natural disasters, and all forms of slavery and torture. 

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. Since 2000 ICCPPC represented at the United Nations with special consultative status. 

The UGCC acquired the status of a valid membership in the ICCPPC at the XII Congress in Rome in 2007.


The ICCPPC Congress Report of Catholic Prison Ministry in Ukraine

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the independent Ukrainian country underwent tremendous stress when it shifted from a centrally planned economy to a free market system. Those changes, led by the post-communist oligarchy, caused an increasing number of impoverished and homeless people in Ukraine. The crime rate and the prison population grew until 2001. Changes in penal policy of the Ukrainian government started after the pontifical visit of Pope John Paul II to Ukraine.

Prison pastoral care was at the very heart of the spirituality of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church throughout her history. Prison Pastoral Care of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, though it is still very young, is taking successive steps to integrity. It was restored in 1990 after the Church, formerly forbidden, emerged from the underground. Pastoral care has grown steadily from several establishments in the Western Part of Ukraine to more than 40 penal institutions in every region of the country. 

Prison statistics.
In 2010-2011 the number of remand prisoners increased sharply. Beginning in July 2012, the prison population fell from 154,000 to 79,750 in December 2014. The Donbass has 20% of all prisons functioning in Ukraine. Donetsk and Lugansk regions have 20 and 16 prison facilities respectively. Twice more than any other region in Ukraine.[1] Convicts were released without any government programs for rehabilitation, destabilizing these regions. Government of Ukraine lost control under four Crimean prisons in March 2014 when Russia occupied and annexed Crimea. The functioning of 29 prisons in militant-controlled areas of Donbass deteriorated after the 2014 Russian military intervention in Ukraine. During the 2014-15 Russian military intervention in Ukraine, hundreds of dangerous convicted criminals from prisons in Donbass were armed by the pro-Russian militants.[2][3] Other prisoners have been used as slave labourers. Lack of food and drinking water affected 16,200 inmates. 
The map shows the location of prisons on the territory of Ukraine. A characteristic fact is that there are 29 prisons on the occupied territory of Donbass in Eastern Ukraine. Region is most overcrowded by prisons.
According to the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine, there are 148 prisons and 622 units of the Correctional Inspection (Probation Service) in its management. As of September 1, 2016 in prisons and detention facilities located on the territory controlled by the Ukrainian authorities keeped 60, 771 prisoners. National prison administration don't includ prisoners in Crimea and Sebastopol and those areas of Donetsk and Luhansk that are not under the control of the Ukrainian authorities. Estimated number of prisoners on the territories of Ukraine occupied after Russian military intervention in 2014 is over 18 000 people. They don’t have access to Catholic pastoral care at all. 

Penitentiary pastoral ministry of the UGCC is a Catholic Prison Ministry in Ukraine founded on international principles of religious assistance in prisons praised during the XII UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. On Juhn 11, 2015 went into force a Law about chaplaincy in prisons #419-VIII "On Amendments to Several Legislative Acts of Ukraine (regarding activity of chaplains in the bodies and institutions belonging to the jurisdiction of the State Penitentiary Service of Ukraine). Main points of new Law are as follows:
  • Chaplains are assigned by Church, recognized by State, but not paid.
  • Churches and religious unions have the Inter-confessional pastoral counsel as an advisory body for head prison administration of Ukraine.
  • Any prisoner should have access to prison pastor without any obstacles.
  • Conversation between priest and prisoner is protected from taping; information from Confession could not be matter for pre-trial and criminal investigation or could not be used as a proof in court.
  • Special 4-days program training is demanded for prison pastor for most important instructions about prison system.
The Office for Pastoral Care in Penitentiary System of Ukraine coordinates the activity of 33 priests in 13 eparchies who have been assigned responsibility for prison pastoral care. Those pastors ensure regular attendance of penitentiary facilities, investigatory isolators and prisons.

The mission is to serve the inmates in the national penitentiaries with Christian charity and reconciliation through extensive ministry to the spiritual and physical needs of prisoners of any creed, sex, age, religious faith, or nationality. The priority directions of the ministry are sermon, catechetics, administration of the sacraments for inmates, assistance and support of communication with family, spiritual support of the prison stuff, engagement of lay people in ministry.

According «The Agreement for cooperation of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church with State Penal Department of Ukraine» today pastoral ministry is regularly carried out in penitentiary facilities  #14, 30, 34, 40, 41, 44, 46, 47, 48, 50, 55, 63, 85, 105, 112, 128, 135 in seven investigatory isolators and in one juvenile prison of Ukraine. 8 more prisons our pastors have the opportunity to attend only occasionally.

Number of active prison chaplains has demined because of different circumstances: 
- Prison pastoral care was suspended in prisons # 3, 13, 120, 124 after Russian military intervention in 2014 and the occupation of certain regions of Donetsk and Lugansk.
- In Occupied Crimea catholic pastoral care is impossible as well. 
- Four chaplains don’t have access because the Sambor and Berezhany juvenile correctional facilities and the prisons #110 118 are temporarily preserved. 
- Four prison chaplains became pastors for military forces.

The UGCC became an active member of The International Commission of Catholic Prison Pastoral Care (ICCPPC) at the XII-th World Congress, held in Rome in September 2007. The ICCPPC is a worldwide Association of country delegates for Catholic Prison Pastoral Care, composed of clerical and lay persons.  The Board of the ICCPPC-Europe has gathered on January 2012 in Lviv (Western Ukraine) to analyze the development of the international cooperation in the region. Conference was headed by Rev. Msgr. Pawel Wojtas (Poland), vice-president of the ICCPPC and Fr. Marc Helfer (France), chief representative of the ICCPPC-Europe. 
In December 12, 2012 the Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Patriarch Sviatoslav and Alexander Lisitskov, Chairman of the State Penitentiary Service of Ukraine (SPSU), Lieutenant-General of internal service have signed an Agreement on cooperation.  

In July - August 2013 representative of the UGCC took an active part in interdenominational group for the development of proposals for the Draft Law on Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of Ukraine (concerning the regulation of the activities of chaplains in the organs and institutions belonging to the jurisdiction of the State Penitentiary Service of Ukraine) № 3233.

On July 20, 2014 before a crowd of 200,000 faithful at the Marian Shrine of Our Lady of Zarvanytsia in Ukraine, Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk solemnly proclaimed Blessed Bishop and Martyr Vasyl Velychkovsky as patron of prison ministry for Clergy, Religious and Faithful of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The blessed hieromartyr and years-long prisoner of the Soviet GULAG and the locum tenens of the underground Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine was elected not by chance: he got to the NKVD confines, and during his stay in inhuman conditions in the death ward the saint showed by his own example how to preserve human dignity and teach it other people.

The UGCC invites the State Penitentiary Service of Ukraine for an annual pilgrimage to the Saint Dormition Monastery of Univ (Lviv region). This pilgrimage for the workers of the prison system of Ukraine, named “Justice, Faith and Mercy!”. Penitentiary stuff is also involved the military pilgrimage to Zarvanytsya.

Experts of the UGCC participated promotive in an interdenominational group drafting the Law on Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of Ukraine (concerning the regulation of the activities of chaplains in the organs and institutions belonging to the jurisdiction of the State Penitentiary Service of Ukraine, which went into force on 11 June 2015. Now they continue cooperation in the Supreme Council Committee for Legislative Support of Law Enforcement elaborating bills that regulate prison pastoral care in Ukraine.

In the Year of Marcy held in the Jubilee dozens of events in prison with participation of 6 local bishops. For details go to

On August 30, 2016, by the initiative of the UGCC, in the Institute of Criminal-Executive Service in Kyiv has been established Department of pastoral practice and prison ethics in view to necessity of interdisciplinary study of the penitentiary problems.

UGCC is a member of the Ukrainian Interdenominational Christian Mission "Spiritual and Charitable Care in Prisons", which includes twelve Churches and Denominations.

In European Sub-region of the ICCPPC the UGCC is best related to Catholic Prison Ministry in Poland and Latvia having common meetings and sharing experiences every year.

Difficulties in the transition period of penitentiary reform.
Chaplains are not paid by state. Most diocesan prison chaplains don’t have their annual budget. It is difficult, especially during the war, to convince benefactors of the importance of maintaining prison chaplaincy. Penitentiary workers are demoralized because of staff reductions, the uncertainty of their status and future of their job. The lack of personnel affects the work of chaplains, because of rules that one officer should accompany chaplain anywhere.

After the introduction of the Law on chaplaincy have been removed obstacles in prisons and the number of visits to prisoners is not limited. Beginning of the institute of probation allows broader participation of the Church in dialling with offenders and the crime prevention.


Most Rev. Michael Koltun, 
Bishop of Sokal and Zhovkva, Head of The Department of the UGCC for Pastoral Care in Power Structures of Ukraine (in Military Forces and in Penitentiary System)
P.O.Box B-125
Kyiv, 01001, Ukraine
fax: +38044 278-61-84

Fr. Constantin Panteley, 
Head of The Office for Pastoral Care in Penitentiary System of Ukraine
P.O.Box B-125
Kyiv, 01001, Ukraine
fax: +38044 279-19-20 +38098 422-9-221
skype: constantin.panteley

Fr. Yaroslav Lukavenko,
Assistant of the Office for Pastoral Care in Penitentiary System of Ukraine
P.O.Box B-125
Kyiv, 01001, Ukraine
fax: +38044 279-19-20 +38097 717-3-700

Pavlo Zagorodnov
Volunteer Program Coordinator of the Office for Pastoral Care in Penitentiary System of Ukraine
P.O.Box B-125
Kyiv, 01001, Ukraine
fax: +38044 279-19-20 +38097 397-29-40

Report about prison ministry of the RCC in Ukraine
Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine has 7 dioceses. Because of lack of pastoral resources, regular pastoral care is established just in 11 prisons:
  •    Lviv -  Remad Prison and Prison Facility
  •    in Rivne (detention center) and Prison  of Horodyshche,
  •    High security prison of Izaslav,
  •    Raykivtsi (Khmelnytsky region).,
  •    Prison of Kharkiv,
  •    Prison of Vinnitsa,
  •    Prison of Sumy,
  •    Prison of Poltava,
  •    Prison of Odessa.

In 6 more prisons pastors could come just occasionally
Prisons regularly attends 7 priests and 3 pastoral assistants.
The most active prison chaplains are Oblate Fathers. Since 2011 till now there are significant obstacles in visiting penal institutions under various pretexts. In particular, authorities have given a need for priests who have Polish citizenship to execute each time a separate permit to visit one institution. These restrictions are introduced by President Yanukovych, but they are still applied.

In the Year of Marcy held in the Jubilee the events in prison with participation of local bishop in Lviv.

RCC in Ukraine is a member of the Ukrainian Interdenominational Christian Mission "Spiritual and Charitable Care in Prisons", as mentioned before, includes twelve Churches and Denominations.

Catholic Churches are members of the Inter-confessional pastoral counsel as an advisory body for head prison administration of Ukraine

Fr. Gregory Draus,
Head Chaplain
of the Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine
cell. 00380975170642
fax: 00380362242601


In October 4, 2016, in the framework of international sharing program, colloquium "Cooperation for pastors and psychologists in prevention of suicides in prisons" has been held. The event was initiated by Prison Pastoral Care of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. It was attended by chaplains Ainars Vanags, Gaitis Dubults from Latvia and members of the master's program of the Institute of Penal Service of the Department of Applied Psychology. The moderators were Tamara Kushnirova, candidate of psychological sciences, associate professor and Fr. Constantine Panteley, Head of The UGCC Office for Pastoral Care in Penitentiary System of Ukraine.