OCEANIA/AUSTRALIA - Pastoral care for prison inmates: a sentence should serve for re-education not only punishment says Catholic Bishop of Melbourne

Monday, 19 September 2005

Melbourne (Fides Service) -Social Justice Sunday in Australia 25 September should be a time for reflection and concrete acts of solidarity for people in prison who are often desperately lonely and totally ignorant of God’s love for them said Bishop Patrick Power, Auxiliary of Canberra-Goulburn recently. Stressing the duty to assist people in prison Bishop Power quoted the Gospel verse “When I was in prison you visited me” (Mt 25, 31-46).
He remarked that in some parts of Australia the prison population has grown more than 40% in the past decade. This fact, he said, is a challenge to Christians to promote wider recognition that prisons are not the asner to crime as prisons act aslille more thans chools for crime. It is necessary also to promote awareness of alternatives to the imprisonment proccess. The most postive of these is the concept of resptorative justice..
Restorative justice is based on the idea of engaging the offender with his or her own community and and victims, rather than isolating him (or her) in a courtroom and in jail. It is also necessary the Bishop said to offer prisoners a chance to work or study to obtain professional qualification in view of reinsertion in society. This system is more effective than traditional prison punishment.
The Bishops’ Social Justice Sunday statement, Jesus, Light for the World, reflects God’s love not only for those who go to Church, but also - and even more particularly - for those who may feel themselves to be far away from it, and calls attention to Christian solidarity.
To mark Social Justice Sunday the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council circulates its annual Social Statement in Catholic parishes, dioceses and institutes across the nation and promotes initiatives to increase awareness and projects to provide concrete assistance for needy and disadvantaged groups.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 19/9/2005 righe 26 parole 274)