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Prison pastors discussed in Kharkiv common witness of Christ in prison.

In Kharkiv, Eastern Ukraine, has ended a field session of the Board of the Ukrainian Interdenominational Christian Mission "Spiritual and charitable care in prisons", which took place 26-27 of May, 2015 at the institutions of the State Penitentiary Service of Ukraine in Kharkiv region.

The meeting discussed measures regarding the enactment of the prison chaplaincy, the vision of each Church ministry on rehabilitation, prevention of repeat offenses, special pastoral conditions in the occupied territory of East Ukraine and the issue of assistance to prisoners who have been find themselves through the war in inhuman conditions. Church spokesman on pastoral care in the penitentiary system Fr. Constantin Panteley has summarized proposals for the Christian formation of personnel of the SPS of Ukraine. During his stay in Kharkiv, he attended a Rehabilitation Center for former prisoners led by Deacon of Evangelical Christian Baptists Victor Dudka, who has many years of experience of ministering.

Together with field session have been organized visits to Kuryazh colony for juveniles, the Kharkiv remand prison, the Kachanivska women colony (№54), the Holodnogorska colony (№18), Dergachivska colony (№109). Chaplains had an opportunity for live communication with staff and with inmates of penitentiary institutions. They familiarized with conditions of inprisonment. A meeting with participants of the project "Strengthening the role of civil society in protecting the rights of vulnerable prisoners in Ukraine" has accured as well. The main purpose of the field meeting of the representatives of Churches was to discuss the implementation of prisoners' rights to freedom of religion in the light of the Law of Ukraine "On Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of Ukraine on regulation of activity of clergy (chaplains) in the organs and institutions belonging to the jurisdiction of the State Penitentiary Service of Ukraine" adopted by Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on May 14, 2015.

The most important result of the meeting was approaching of Christian Churches to a shared vision of the modern chaplain ministry, which has transform penal system and the lives of our fellow citizens who fell into conflict with law and society through criminal acts. The presence of pastors in the colonies and prisons is also important in view of cases where innocent people find themselves in jail, or when the human rights of inmates are violated. There are great spiritual needs of staff from the prison service, which requires more and more implementation of Christian principles in their work. Having the special conditions of work and stress, rights of personnel treated sometimes even weaker as the rights of prisoners. This is especially true for decent wages and social guarantees required. Chaplains as witnesses repeatedly put this issue before the public and the state. Without that, our country could not approach international standards for the humanization of the prison system.


In the Ukrainian Catholic University hosted a roundtable "Ukrainian dimension of penitentiary idea".

On May 19, 2015 a roundtable "Ukrainian dimension  of penitentiary idea"  held in Lviv at the Philosophy and Theology Faculty of UCU. It has been attended by students, pastors, chaplains and volunteers who work with inmates.

The event was organized under the auspices of the Department of Pastoral Theology of the Ukrainian Catholic University in cooperation with the Penitentiary Pastoral Care of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church.

Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy and Theology, Fr.  Roman Zaviyskyy said: "today Ukraine needs reforms in all spheres of public life and the in judicial and prison system itself, cause they still bear the burden of the former totalitarian regime. We have gathered today at the Catholic University as a community of experts that would help to find a response to the call of Pope Francis for pastors to go and to serve those, who are on the margins of society or indeed have been rejected."

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Vice-Rector of UCU Myroslav Marynovych, dissident, political prisoner, shared his memories of stay in soviet prisons and camps. He noted that some points of being behind bars could be taken as a particular blessing, but it is possible in two cases: if a person is not guilty being punished by unjust sentence. "Then your pure conscience gives you an opportunity to feel free," - said Miroslav Marynovych. Second - when human suffering are the basis for spiritual growth, not just torment. In such moments, according to a dissident, prison can be a place of freedom.

Professor Myroslav Marynovych drew attention to moral issues of the occupation of overseer in prison. Work in this field often changes a person and not all ones have strength to endure this burden of responsibility. At such moments a person can become quite aggressive as to prisoners, as to people in the near surroundings. Therefore, people who work with prisoners should also have some rehabilitation.

About the needs of personnel of the State Penitentiary Service has spoken also Fr. Constantin Panteley, Head of The UGCC Office for Pastoral Care in Penitentiary System of Ukraine. In his report he presented basic international standards for the treatment of prisoners. In particular, he examined a document “Basic Principles: Religious in Prison”, which had been prepared by the International Commission of Catholic Prison Pastoral Care for Twelfth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, 12–19 April 2010. These provisions have allowed to formulate changes in legislation of Ukraine for prisoners and prison service personnel. The chaplain told about his experience of pastorship in prison.

Gregory Draus, chief prison chaplain of the Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine, introduced penal legislation and practice of chaplaincy in more than 40 countries and presented how to change prison rules that would facilitate the pastoral ministry.
Miroslav Demkiv, chief specialist in Media relations and public relations department of the State Penitentiary Service of Ukraine in Lviv region, spoke about the objectives and needs of the prison service personnel who are in difficult and dangerous circumstances. The service financed by the state only 40% of the needs.

The theological aspect of pastorship for prisoners submitted Fr. Michael Plotsidem, vice-rector of the Lviv Theological Seminary of the Holy Spirit. "Jesus teaches us that man is not only designed to receive the mercy of God, but do it in relation to the neighbors. The commandment of charity has a special significance, "- said Fr. Michael.
Another experience with prisoners shared Redemptorist Fr. Vitaly Kotyk. He started care for prisoners  since 2001 and visited many cities of Ukraine. As he said, the main thing in communication with the prisoners to be authentic ourselves and not be like them, using their sleng.

Deputy Head of the UGCC Commission "Justice and Peace" Fr. Oleg Luca ntroduced the prison ministry in the light of the papal Apostolic Exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium". "The Pope calls for Christian joy that the Church re-opened the main message of Christ in the world today. Pope Francis offers the document in the Church as a map and a guide for its pastoral mission. This invitation restore the prophetic and positive vision of reality without ignoring the current problems. "

The social study "The Role of the Church in resocialization of prisoners" presented assistant professor of sociology and social work in "Lviv Polytechnic" University Vladimir Proskura. The scientist showed the areas where it is most Church helps prisoners during their stay in prison.

Topicsof rehabilitation of men and women after release devoted in their reports Igor Gnat, head of the charity organization "Regional Center for Social Adaptation" and Redemtorist nгn Oksana Pelech, the  assistant of chaplain of Lviv Archdiocese of the UGCC.

The history of participation of students of the seminary in the programs of work with convicts told brothers Ostap Mykytchyn and Andriy Khrobak.

The round table was held on the occasion of opening the same day the National traveling exhibition of fine and applied art of prisoners "Transfiguration by God's Love" in Lviv Palace of Arts.


Parliament of Ukraine adopted a law that officially recognized prison pastoral care.

Prisoners in Ukraine will have soon free access to pastors of their belief. The presence of chaplains in the field of non-freedom became a major factor of irreversible changes in the societies of Eastern Europe, freed from the influence of repressive atheistic imperial ideology. In development of the bill were actively involved representatives of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church participated in the group of experts.

On May 14, 2015 the Parliament of Ukraine adopted the Law "On Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of Ukraine on Regulation of Activities of Chaplains in the Organs and Iinstitutions Belonging to the Jurisdiction of the State Penitentiary Service of Ukraine".
This legislative act  will supplement the Penal Code by section 128.1 "Organization of Pastoral Care for prisoners " to introduce Prison Chaplaincy in the State Penitentiary Service of Ukraine for the implementation of "pastoral care" in the bodies and institutions of the SPS. New law assures the confidentiality of pastoral visits and protects Sacrament of Reconciliation from tape recording and from any demands from courts or 

According to the law, "pastoral care of prisoners presumes activities in penal institutions of clergymen (chaplains) authorized by religious organizations, which statutes are registered in accordance with the law, to address the religious needs of prisoners, as well as their spiritual education."

The law provided for persons taken into custody, the right to "pastoral" care. For this new edition set the Articles 9 and 12 of the Law "On pre-trial detention."

The document provides oblige of governing structures and institutions of the State Penitentiary Service of Ukraine  to facilitate for the clergy (chaplains) any measures of "pastoral care" for prison personnel.

In this regard, Article 23 of the Law "On the State Penal Service of Ukraine" supplemented by appropriate instructions.

The draft law was registered under # 1154.