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Poggioreale, Naples
Saturday, 21 March 2015

I am glad to find myself among you on the occasion of my visit to Naples. I thank Claudio and Pasquale who spoke on behalf of all. This meeting gives me the opportunity to express my closeness to you, and I do so by bringing you the word and love of Jesus, who came to earth to fulfill our hope and who died on the cross to save each one of us.
At times we may feel disappointed, discouraged and abandoned by everyone, however God does not forget His children, He never abandons them! He is always at our side, especially at the hour of trial. He is a Father “rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4), who always turns his serene and benevolent gaze to us; he always waits for us with open arms. This is a certainty which instills consolation and hope, especially in difficult and painful moments. Even if we have made mistakes in our life, the Lord never tires of showing us the path to return to and to encounter Him. Jesus’ love for each of us is the source of consolation and hope. It is a fundamental certainty for us. Nothing can ever separate us from God’s love, not even prison bars! The only thing that can keep us from Him is our sin; but if we recognize it and we confess it with sincere repentance it will become a place to meet Him, because He is mercy.
Dear brothers, I know of your painful situations; I receive many letters — some extremely moving — from prisons all over the world. Inmates are often held in conditions unworthy of the human condition, and then they are not able to reintegrate into society. But thanks be to God there are also directors, chaplains, educators, pastoral workers who know how to be close to you in the right way. There are several good and meaningful experiences of reintegration. Work on this, develop these positive experiences which allow a different attitude to be cultivated in the civil community and in the Church community. The basis of this commitment is the conviction that love is always able to transform the human person. Thus a place of marginalization, such as prison, can be in the negative sense, can become a place of inclusion and a stimulus for the whole of society, so that it may be more just and attentive to the people.
I invite you to live each day, each moment in the presence of God, to whom the future of the world and humankind belongs. That is Christian hope: the future is in God’s hands! History makes sense because it dwells in God’s goodness.
Therefore, even in the midst of so many problems, even serious ones, we cannot lose our hope in God’s infinite mercy and his providence. With this certain hope, let’s prepare ourselves for Easter which is now approaching, decisively directing our lives to the Lord and keeping the flame of his love alive in us.

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


The most difficult category of inmates are life sentenced prisoners.

On March 25, 2015 Fr. Constantin Panteley visited prisoners serving their life sentences in Kyiv Prison. This is probably the most in need of care category of prisoners, who are under the rigorous custody and restricted to limited contacts with the world. It is also the most time-consuming ministry. It's lion's share is spent on listening to people who have rarely someone to talk with. It takes time to the procedure of admission as well. "After listening capacity the most valuable skill for pastor is the ability not to judge, to pray, to preach, to answer difficult questions," - says Fr. Constantine. He happened to meet sentenced to life in prison, carrying a burden of their own offenses, but sometimes people who pay for someone else's guilt. "Life prisoners are the most difficult category of inmates," - he said.

This not an easy matter of lifelong isolation has been touched by the Holy Father, Pope Francis, in the Address to the delegates of the International Association of Penal Law. There are several Ukrainian Catholic priests who have a long experience of ministry for this category of inmates: Fr. Vitaly Kotyk, CSSR, Fr. Paul Hvedoruk, Fr.Taras Myrka, Fr. Andrew Buhvak, Fr. Andrew Lemchuk and Fr. Basil Pantelyuk. There are some priests that just started and have less than one year experience. The whole experience gained by them is very valuable and needs generalization in a handbook for prison pastors. The edition of this book should be prepared by Office of the Patriarchal Curia of the UGCC for Pastoral Care in Penitentiary System of Ukraine this year.

Prior to the undeclared war and the Russian intervention to Ukraine there were 1895 sentenced to life imprisonment. As of March 1, 2015 there are 1630 life convicts in penitentiary institutions on the Ukrainian territory. From 1997, when the moratorium on the death penalty came into force, it took 18 years. We know just single cases of releas of prisoners sentenced to life after admitting of miscarriage of justice in the case of Gennady Kytaynyka and George Vysochynenka, in the case of Pavlicenco, who has been released among other political prisoners was an exemption decision of the Supreme Council. The number of life convicts increases.  There is a growing need of adequate treatment of citizens who are serving those sentences, a need of improvement of legislation concerning the possibility of appealing unjust sentences, of socio-psychological work, of pastoral care and so on. In the Zhytomyr penal institution # 8 with the assistance of the State Penitentiary Service of Ukraine several life convicts can receive high education via extramural faculty of University.  Procedure for admission in maximum security sector is complex. In some institutions, like Castle penal colony,it takes 2 - 4 hours. With the introduction of the law on chaplaincy these difficulties will be over. There is a growing need for appropriate complex training to this work for clergy and laypeople. Today one of the most accessible forms of pastoral care for lifesentenced is a letter correspondence.

Prison Pastoral Care of the UGCC.


Do not shun Crosses of other ones!

Everyone in his life has his own cross. Often we want to get rid of it. But let us not forget that only way to salvation is to bear the cross. Who had never come across difficulties, troubles, frustrations must overcome the thorny path. It is also important not to forget and to help alleviate the hardship of life to those who are particularly in need of this assistance. People who are temporarily deprived of their freedom also carry their crosses. How hard is this, we can not imagine!

In order not to leave juveniles of Correctional Colony of Pryluky alone with patience and temptations, seminarians of the Kyiv Three Saints Theological Seminary have organized prayer of the Way of the Cross. The event held on 14 March on the eve of the Cross Sunday. Short introduction has been told by Fr. Dmitry Hornakevych who is the administrator of the parish in Priluky and chaplain for youngsters in the colony. Young inmates participated actively in this prayerful reflection of the Lord's Suffering. After the prayer of the Way of the Cross youngsres together wit seminarians separated in small groups to communicate with each other.

Seminarians were deeply impressed by sincerity and openness of juveniles during the meeting. "Apparently, each of us was touched when one heard how many young offenders being convicted, frankly confessed that they committed a crime and pay justice serving their sentence in prison. For all of us it is a very good example of recognition of sins and acceptance of consequences, and the possibility to ponder in honesty and sincerity upon own live. Very often we condemn people deprived of their liberty, but do not realize that before God our everyday evil deeds are no less sinful.
As students of the colony, and seminarians were pleased with the meeting, looking forward to the next opportunity to meet and spend good time in prayer and in dialogue with each other.
Ivan Zhugan