By Vatican News
The Catholic Church in India marked Prison Ministry Sunday on 2 August.
For the occasion this year, the Chairman of Prison Ministry India (PMI), Bishop Allwyn D’Silva of Bombay, issued a pastoral letter on Sunday advocating for the dignity and social reintegration of prisoners in the country.
“Real social reintegration begins by guaranteeing opportunities for development, education, decent work, access to healthcare, as well as generating public spaces for civic participation,” Bishop D’Silva said.
“Those prisoners who already served their sentences for the evil committed, should not be subjected to a new social punishment with rejection and indifference,” he added.
The need for real social integration
Bishop D’Silva recalled Pope Francis’s appeal during the International Conference of Prison Chaplains in November 2019. On that occasion, the Holy Father urged those who take care of prisoners to change their approach in treating them and offer better opportunities for their reformation, development and reintegration.
Joining the Pope’s appeal, Bishop D'Silva reiterated the importance of respecting the dignity of prisoners as a means to the important end of real social integration. Through the PMI, “we facilitate them with jobs, marriage, family settlements, and even assisting them in constructing their houses,” he said.
“If prisoners are prevented from regaining the full exercise of their dignity, warned D’Silva, “they will once again be exposed to the dangers of violence, insecurity and desperation.”
Repentance and reconciliation
Highlighting the work of the Prison Ministry, Bishop Silva said that its major task is to “lead prisoners to repentance, reconciliation and reformation.”
“True repentance leads to reconciliation with God, society, family and self,” said the Bishop. We are, therefore, to “bear fruit worthy of repentance" (Mt 18:3).
In the same way, “reformation and reintegration reach the summit with redemption,” he said. Like Jesus who forgave the good thief (Lk 23:42–43), ministry to prisoners helps to redeem the lost.
Through the celebration of Prison Ministry Sunday, said Bishop D’Silva, “the Church declares that prisoners are our brothers and sisters and she is ready to provide them with a second chance if they are ready to repent, reconcile and renew themselves.”
Gesture of closeness
Turning his thoughts towards the nation’s prisoners, Bishop D’Silva said: “Dear brethren behind the bars, we love you, we are with you, we pray for you and we are ready to do whatever is possible for your reformation and reintegration.”
“Today when the Catholic Church celebrates the Prison Ministry Sunday, let us remember and pray for prisoners all over the world especially the 4.5 lakhs (450,000) languishing in the 1412 Indian prisons, their families, victims, the officers and the volunteers who serve them,” he added.
Concluding, Bishop D’Silva called on Our Lady and Saint Maximilian Kolbe, the patron of PMI, to bless the ministry to the prisoners.
Prison Ministry India
Prison Ministry India (PMI) advocates for the rights of prisoners in the country. It is involved in the reformation, rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners back into society.
PMI has more than 8000 volunteers who work in the nation’s prisons. It also has homes and rehabilitation centres where it caters for prisoners’ children in several states all over India.