Extended session of the Board of the Ukrainian Interdenominational Christian Mission Spiritual and Charitable Care in Places of Imprisonment

Tuesday, 24 February 2009, 12:19
On February 19, 2009, in the State Department an extended session of the Board of the Ukrainian Interdenominational Christian Mission Spiritual and Charitable Care in Places of Imprisonment was held.
On February 19, 2009, in the State Department an extended session of the Board of the Ukrainian Interdenominational Christian Mission Spiritual and Charitable Care in Places of Imprisonment was held. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss organizational, practical and legal aspects of conducting spiritual work in institutions of the penitentiary services of Ukraine. The meeting was conducted under the general guidance of the head of the Ukrainian Interdenominational Christian Mission, Father Grzegorz Draus, and the head of the State Department of Ukraine on Questions of Implementation of Punishments, Vasyl Koshchynets. The assistant for the Chaplaincy of the UGCC in the Penitentiary System of Ukraine, Deacon Constantin Panteley, participated actively in the discussion. The Ukrainian Interdenominational Christian Mission Spiritual and Charitable Care in Places of Imprisonment has functioned since 2002. The Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church is a co-founder of the organization. The primary purpose of the mission is assisting to increase guarantees of observance of the right of those under arrest and convicts to freedom of religion, to determine prospects for improving spiritual care in places of imprisonment, and to work out the penitentiary policy of our state.  In the area of bringing penitential institutions in accordance with international standards, the Department addresses not only problems of a material character but also creates terms for the moral education of convicts and assists in their return to society as people capable of a normal life.  A very important place in the process of the spiritual revival of citizens who have committed a crime is held by the clergy. More than 30 priests of the UGCC carry out pastoral ministry in prisons regularly. Today in penitentiary institutions and investigative isolators as a result of joint efforts of the Department and the Mission in penal institutions there are 94 churches and chapels, prayer-houses (in that number 45 separate buildings), and the building of another 18 is being conducted. In other institutions function prayer rooms. Approximately 30 thousand prisoners regularly attend divine services. Legal grounds for the organization of divine services and religious ceremonies in colonies are legislatively supported by article 128 of the criminal-executive code of Ukraine, the regulations of which correspond to the standards of the law «On freedom of conscience and religious organizations». The Department treats with respect the right of each religious confession to realize religious activity. This right comes, first of all, from the principle of the equality of all religions, faiths, and religious organizations, supported in the Constitution of Ukraine by law.  The mutual relations of the Department with the largest religious denominations, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyivan Patriarchate, and Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, are defined by agreements on cooperation. The Department is open to signing corresponding documents within the framework of current legislation with other confessions, but supports the position that cooperation has to be carried out exactly within the framework of the Inter-denominational Christian Mission. For that reason, in 2007 the corresponding agreement about the cooperation of the Department and the Mission was signed. Considering the appeals on the part of religious organizations, the Department also simplified the regulations regarding visits to institutions by clergy who regularly minister in penal institutions. In the opinion of the organizers and participants of the extended session, subsequent development of the cooperation of the state penitentiary services of Ukraine with the Ukrainian Interdenominational Christian Mission Spiritual and Charitable Care in Places of Imprisonment  will give the possibility to build a system of authentic spiritual values in the life of prisoners, and, most important, will morally strengthen them and caution them from returning to criminal activity.

Department on Matters of Pastoral Care in the Power Structures of Ukraine

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