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Presentation of Prison Ministry of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) .

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the independent Ukrainian country underwent tremendous stress when it shifted from a centrally planned economy to certain kind of a free market system. Those changes, being led by the post-communist oligarchy, caused increasing number of needy and homeless people in Ukraine. In the massive transformation process of the 1990s, corruption among state officials featured the civil life and court system of Ukraine. The crime rate and the prison population has steadily grown ever higher. Since 2001 situation started to change. It was the year of the pontifical visit of Blessed Pope John Paul II to Ukraine. The tendency to diminishing the number of convicts has gained a permanent character. Since then, it was reduced by almost one third. But now the alarming fact is that there are cases of politically motivated criminal persecutions and selective justice.

There are 182 penal institutions in Ukraine (32 pre-trial detention centres, 141 penal institutions, 8 corrective penal colonies for minors). Prison population reported for September 1, 2012 had number 151,122 people. It makes up a significant share of Ukrainian society: 334 prisoners per 100,000 people as Prison Brief for Ukraine of the International Centre for Prison Studies has informed. Approximately one-fourth are remanded prisoners. Huge number of the citizenry has had prison past at one time or another. Contemporary justice system of Ukraine remains quite punitive.

Prison pastoral care was at the very heart of the spirituality of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church throughout her history. Prison Pastoral 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. Since 2001 the UGCC is the co-founder of the Ukrainian Interdenominational Christian Mission "Spiritual and Charitable Care in Prisons" including twelve churches and denominations. This Mission is a part of the World Association of Prison Ministry.

The Patriarchal Curia of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church is an organ of the head of the UGCC, Major Archbishop of Kyiv and Halych, which coordinates and promotes the common activity of the UGCC in Ukraine to make influence on society in different spheres: education, policy, culture, etc. The Curia develops action of the Church's structures, enables relations and cooperation with other Churches and major public institutions in religious and social areas for implementation of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church through everyday life. Auxiliary bishop Bohdan Dzyurach is the head of the Patriarchal administration. In the year 2006 His Beatitude Lubomyr established in the Patriarchal Curia of the UGCC the Department for Pastoral Care in the Armed Forces and in the Penitentiary System of Ukraine. This structure implements a general management of Prison Ministry. The chief of the Department is Most Rev. Michael Koltun, Bishop of Sokal. The head of the Office for Penitentiary Pastoral care is Rev. Constantin Panteley, who is responsible for coordination of activity in this realm. He is in direct contact with 37 priests in 12 eparchies who have been assigned responsibility for prison pastoral care. Those pastors ensure regular attendance of penitentiary facilities, investigatory isolators and prisons.

Department of the UGCC for Pastoral Care in the Armed Forces and in the Penitentiary System of Ukraine is provisory structure till both chaplaincies will be quite ripe to form more solid establishments. Prison Pastoral Care is appealed to facilitate transition from the punitive system neglecting human dignity to correctional system cherishing penitentiary idea. Our 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.
The UGCC Prison Ministry has many directions of development and compatibility with other missions of the Church. It is currently carrying out on the base of «The Agreement for cooperation of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church with State Penal Department of Ukraine» which offers many possibilities. Today pastoral ministry is regularly carried out in penitentiary facilities # 3, 13, 27, 30, 40, 41, 44, 47, 48, 50, 55, 57, 63, 110, 112, 120, 124, in correctional centres # 118, 128, 135 in seven investigatory isolators and in three juvenile prisons of Ukraine. In 6 prisons our pastors are able to attend only irregularly.

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. At this Congress the Church expressed concern about imprisoned held in inhumane conditions, especially minors, women, old and mentally ill persons and those people who only came on trial and their guilt was not proven. With the prayers of the Holy Father this Congress indeed gave to its participants the chance “to share the experience of contemplating the mysterious expression of the face of Christ which shines through the face of the imprisoned." Pope Benedict XVI encouraged prison chaplains in their ministry to "show this face to the world."

For the first time in the history of Ukraine, a training program for prison chaplains of the UGCC called “Pastoral care at the penitentiary institutions of Ukraine" was held at the Professional College of the State Penal Department in Bila Tserkva town in November, 2007. On February - May, 2008 this common educational program was spread out for other Christian denominations.
Since 2008 chaplains of the UGCC are in closer cooperation with catholic chaplains in Poland sharing experiences.
On February, 2008 the UGCC made a presentation of the Ukrainian publication of Compendium of the Catholic social teaching for the State Penal Department of Ukraine.

On June, 2008 the UGCC and Penitentiary Service of Ukraine carried out the First Pilgrimage to Zarvanytsia, a sacred place of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The employees of the Central Administration of the Penal Department, chiefs of all Regional Management Units of the Penal System, chiefs and assistants of 183 prison facilities of Ukraine and clergy of different Churches took part in this occasion. The total number of pilgrims was more than 350 persons. Pilgrimage was carried out with the intention to deepen the understanding of vocation to the prison service and to comprehend the Teaching of the Church about challenges concerning crime, sin, penance, pardon, change of life and cherishment of the human dignity.

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!”, is dedicated to the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (or Triumph of the Cross) on September, 26-27.

The Ukrainian translation of the book "Human Rights of Prisoners" was issued on July, 2008. The English version of the book was published in 2006 in Rome under the aegis of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the International Commission of Catholic Prison Pastoral Care(ICCPPC). The translation of "Human Rights of Prisoners" into Ukrainian was published on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, accepted and proclaimed on December 10, 1948, by the General Assembly of the UN.
"Criminality is a reality which we couldn't avoid, but it is not always clear for us what to do with it, and how. How should we behave with criminals, how do criminals themselves have to examine the status of their soul?", - so wrote Patriarch Lubomyr in the introduction, - "Are we able to understand properly the situation of a man in jail and after release?"

Rev. Deacon Peter Echtermeyer, former Chief Representative of the ICCPPC-Europe, had done a lot for inspiration of Prison Pastoral. He traveled to Ukraine four times, showing brotherly support for this important ministry of the Church. During those visits deacon Peter met prisoners, state officials, chaplains, local bishops, His Beatitude Lubomyr Huzar and Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, Apostolic Nuncio to Ukraine. The International conference Area Juridica of Prison Ministry took place in Kyiv on June 6, 2009, by the initiative of the ICCPPC-Europe. The Conference was organized in cooperation of the UGCC and the State Penal Department of Ukraine. Participants examined the status of legislation in European countries for the safeguarding of human dignity in prisons. The Conference analyzed status of criminal justice in Central and Eastern Europe, human rights of prisoners and convicts. Members of the working group of the ICCPPC-Europe invited for the Conference representatives of Churches ministering in prisons of Ukraine. Vice-president of PFI Soren Johnson and head chaplain of Russia Rev. Alexander Dobrodiejev participated in this event.

In December 2009 the Commission of Kiev Archdiocese for penitentiary pastoral care was founded by decision of His Beatitude Lubomir Husar.

Issues of the ministry in prison were the subject of three sessions of the Synod of Bishops of the UGCC in 2010. There were appointed new chaplains in the dioceses. The number of volunteers increased. In summer of 2010 the registration of the 1-st Rehabilitation Center for women ex-prisoners started in Chernigiv suburb. The importance and value of pastoral care in penitentiary system is undisputable. Even if prison chaplaincy does not exist in Ukraine de jure, ministry of the Church in prison establishments of Ukraine became more possible de facto than we practically offer now! The number of well trained lay volunteers is not enough. Not all assigned pastors really respond to vocation for regular ministry in prison.

Understanding and sensitivity of the Synod of Bishops of the UGCC concerning prison pastoral ministry is growing. But mission of the Church in prison has new challenges and demands. We need to form a well coordinated framework. The Institution of Prison Chaplaincy in Prison System of Ukraine would be approved by legislation in few years.
We can see now rapid development and maturation of prison pastoral mission of the Ukrainian Catholic Church through engagement of its lay and pastoral resources. Planning and coordination of the ministry facilitates the improvement of evangelization behind bars. 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. We can see now rapid development and maturation of prison pastoral mission of the Ukrainian Catholic Church through engagement of its lay and pastoral resources. Planning and coordination of the ministry facilitates the improvement of evangelization behind bars. Pastoral care is embracing not just offenders but prison personnel as well. It gives more chances for the establishment of a prison chaplaincy institution in Ukraine that meets European prison standards. It means reform and development of the criminal justice and prison system in Ukraine towards regard of the human rights of inmates. But mission of the Church in prison has new challenges and demands.The Institution of Prison Chaplaincy in Prison System of Ukraine would be approved by legislation in few years. Church in Ukraine is giving a worthy reply to the spiritual hunger of prisoners and this serves for restoration the moral health of society.

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. The Agreement is a reflection of cooperation according to the previous document signed by His Beatitude Lubomir Huzar in the year 2007. The text of the Agreement summarizes not only the structural changes that have occurred over the past 5 years, but also laid emphasis on pastoral care about staff SPSU and families of staff, students of educational institutions SPSU, prisoners and persons detained.


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 Board 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

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