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2012-02-11

The Church prays for prisoners on the occasion of the day of special pastoral attention to prison ministry of the UGCC on the Sunday of the Prodigal Son.

Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has defined the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, which every year falls up to date two weeks before the Great Lent, as a Day of special pastoral attention and prayer for prisoners themselves and for the other victims of crimes. The Gospel Reading on this Sunday (Luke 15:11-32) lays out one of the most important themes of the Lenten season: the history of falling into a sin, realization of one's sinfulness, the road to repentance, and finally reconciliation, each of which is illustrated in the course of the parable. This Sunday declared as a day to remember in prayers and support chaplains and volunteers, who work with great dedication to provide spiritual support for prisoners, helping them to step on the right path. The UGCC Synod invokes to remember in prayers workers of the Penitentiary system of Ukraine, who perform difficult tasks, because every day they are near of broken human destinies. On this occasion His Excellency Michael Koltun has prepared a pastoral letter. Here it is...

God is looking for every person regardless of the circumstances. God's justice condemns the evil but does not reject a man. Merciful Father is always waiting for the return of the Prodigal Son. That's why prison needs messengers of His grace. God became a man to enlighten even the darkest corners of human life.

Every society entrusts to the legitimate state authority to respond to crime by police services and justice system. We accept the need for punishment by imprisonment owing criminal transgressions, for the sake of relative comfort and security. It exists in order that offenders could realize the gravity of criminal acts, change their behavior and might return to normal social life. And also to warn others of offenses. Therefore, prison, unfortunately, will accompany human civilization as long as the world will exist. But in the reaction should be enough space for enduring and unconditional humanity to a person, with respect to one's human dignity.  Just than could be a hope for ever return of an individual to normal coexistence with people.

However, prison does not solve the problem of the consequences of crime, and often becomes a place where lawlessness is multiplied. Often, prison is only a vengeance and an exclusion of "them"  from "us". The punishment of imprisonment for a convicted person pulls up additional penalties beyond the Criminal Code as humiliations, restrictions and dangers, to which a person is exposed.
Ukrainian penitentiary system readily accepts the ministry of the Church. But the priest can not work in this area qwite effectively without the help of the laity. Since the Christian ministry in prison environment is the most demanding on-time pastoral work. Prison chaplains and lay volunteers create a bridge between persons deprived of their freedom and society. Great importance has friendly fraternal interest, concern and compassion. This is largely weakens the flow of evil that abound behind barbed wire.
On behalf of prison chaplains, please pray for victims of crimes: not only for the victims themselves but for prisoners and their families. Let us pray for the judges and lawyers, in whose hands there are the fate and lives of many families. Let us pray for the employees of the State Penitentiary Service of Ukraine, working with great intensity in difficult conditions, whose right to adequate wages and social protection is completely neglected. Finally, I ask for prayer for the chaplains and volunteers of prison ministry. In your charity do not forget to support the prison ministry of the Church by possible gifts.
+ Michael Koltun
Bishop of Sokal and Zhovkva,
the Chief of the UGCC Department for
Pastoral Care in the Armed Forces and
in the Penitentiary System of Ukraine

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