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Prison Pastoral and ‘ministries of hope’

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Rome (Italy). On 7 and 8 November 2019, the Dicastery for Integral Human Development, at the initiative of Pope Francis, organized two days at the headquarters of the Vatican Organism, for an International Conference on prison pastoral care addressed to regional and national directors.

About thirty participants gathered from the five continents, including priests, laity, some bishops and some religious. The objective was to listen to the experience of living in Catholic prisons around the world, as regards the assistance to prisoners, the living conditions in which they are found, pastoral care, support for families, and other aspects to be held present for their integral human development.

They were two days spent in a climate of mutual listening, of sharing experiences, initiatives, and proposals, which reached their peak in the audience with Pope Francis, who personally welcomed and greeted all present in the Sala Clementina of the Apostolic Palace.

In his talk, the Pontiff first pointed out that the prison situation continues to be a reflection of the social reality and a consequence of the egoism and indifference typical of a throwaway culture. It is easier to suppress than to educate, obscure injustice rather than offer equal development opportunities to all citizens.

Moreover, places of detention often struggle to reach the goal of promoting reintegration processes because they do not have sufficient resources. A true social reintegration begins by guaranteeing opportunities for development, education, decent work, access to health, generating public spaces for civic participation.

At the end of his talk, Pope Francis proposed two symbolic images: the first is ‘windows’, saying that there is no human pain without an horizon. No one can change his life if he does not see a horizon and so many times the gazes of the inmates become blurred. The second is the image of mothers, who do not feel ashamed of their imprisoned children.

Sister Julia Arciniegas FMA attended the meeting representing Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation of USG / UISG.

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