Rome, 24 february - 3 march 2005
After a meeting of the Executive Board of ICCPPC (25 February – 28 February), the seminar on “Human Rights of Prisoners” took place: 1-2 March 2005. This seminar was jointly organized and prepared by The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the International Commission of Catholic Prison Pastoral Care (ICCPPC). It took place at the premises of the Vatican, Palazzo Calisto.
Renato Martino, President of Justice and Peace, opened the meeting –
underlining the importance of pastoral ministry in prisons. Mr. Christian Kuhn,
President of ICCPPC, welcomed the participants on behalf of ICCPPC.
keynote address, prepared by Mr. Eduardo Vetere, Director at the United Nations
Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programm, was delivered by his deputy Mrs.
Jo Dedyne on his behalf (he was not able to attend the meeting personally). The
global challenge to preserve human rights of prisoners was emphasized and
international efforts to improve their situation were described.
panel discussion gathered international top experts in this field: Bishop Vives
Sicilia from Spain reported on the activities of prison chaplains; Madame Silvia
Casale, President of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and
Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) informed on the activities of
the Committee and on regional problems regarding human rights of prisoners; Mr.
Jean Paul Laborde, Director of the United Nations Terrorism Prevention Branch,
stressed the need to preserve and keep our moral values in fighting crime and
terrorism; Baroness Vivien Stern, Secretary of Penal Reform International, gave
a description of concrete examples where human rights of prisoners are at risk;
Mr. Joseph Etima, Commissioner of Prisons in Uganda, spoke from the perspective
of a Director-General of prison administration and stressed the problem of that
work in a situation with very limited financial resources.
the general debate and the working groups in the afternoon, these statements
were discussed and prison chaplains contributed from their own experience.
second day was opened by a keynote speech by Cardinal Dario Castrillon-Hoyos,
President of the Congregation for Clergy. He said, inter alia, that prison
chaplains should work in the conviction of the full dignity of every human
being, including prisoners, and with no feeling of “superiority”. Conversion
is a goal, but “proposed, not imposed”.
Kuhn gave an overview of the activities of the Commission ICCPPC.
panel discussion was an opportunity for prison chaplains to report on their
work: Sister Van Baalen (USA) referred to the situation in the USA including the
problem of capital punishment (recently abolished for juveniles) and the fact
that in many prisons the work is mainly done by lay people and religious (with a
difficult access of inmates to the sacraments due to a few priests working in
that field); Rev. Elie Nasr gave a description of the challenging situation in
Lebanon and the ministry of prison pastoral work there; Rev. Andres Fernandez
(Colombia) presented a project with a view to assisting families of prisoners;
Mr. Diamante (Philippines) made a strong and clear statement against capital
punishment; Rev. Dr. Waliggo (Uganda) emphasized the need to involve communities
in the ministry and reported on the work in the region; Deacon Echtermeyer
(Germany) focused on the European situation and, inter alia, reported on several
activities of training for prison chaplains.
the general debate, Cardinal Martino made his concluding statement – again
stressing the need to preserve human dignity and human rights of prisoners.
seminar ended with a Holy Mass at the Regina Coeli prison and a reception at the
Honorable President of the Municipal Council of Rome, Guiseppe Mannino.
were more than 80 participants at the seminar, among them the leaders of the
Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, many general prison chaplains from
more than 20 countries from all five continents; representatives of Vatican
authorities (Secretariat of State,...), religious congregations, international
human rights experts, representatives of catholic institutions (Caritas
Internationalis, San’Egidio...), and the president of the ecumenical
International Prison Chaplains Association.
Papal message was received, issued by the Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo
Sodano, in which “the Holy Father send his cordial greetings to the promoters
and participants in this significant meeting.” It was pointed out that “His
Holiness wishes that these days of reflection contribute to affirm the due and
continuous respect of the human dignity of the individual who has violated the
law so that the individual can remain a part of society and engage himself so
that he can be re-integrated into society”.
meeting and its outcome was widely reflected in the local and international
mass-media – several times under the headline: “Prisoners have rights, says
are several follow-up activities envisaged. The contributions to the meeting,
speeches as well as reports from the working-groups, will be published.
as an observer organization to the United Nations, will report on the meeting at
the Eleventh United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice,
to be held 18-25 April 2005, Bangkok, Thailand.
Christian Kuhn mp.
President of ICCPPC