1. History


The International Commission of Catholic Prison Pastoral Care finds its roots in an international Congress, convoked on behalf of the Secretary of State, by the future Pope Paul VI, in the Holy Year 1950 in Rome with the participation of prison chaplains-general from many European countries, the United States of America and Argentina.

In 1954 a second Congress took place in Fribourg in Switzerland.  After this congress several meetings were held at irregular intervals.  The purpose of these meetings was to support prison chaplains and bring to the Church a greater awareness for Prison Pastoral Care.

In 1972, the third Congress was held in Rome. It became obvious that continuity was needed.  The Commission required Statutes and a Charter.

In 1974, the "Internationale Kommission der Katholischen Gefängnisgeistlichen (IKG)" was established in London and Statutes were adopted in accordance with Swiss Civil Law.

In 1983 in Strasbourg a special Charter was adopted.  Other Congresses were subsequently held in Munich 1977, Madrid 1985, Vienna 1987, all in Western Europe.  In 1990, in Rome, Episcopal Conferences from Africa and South America joined the Commission.  In Bovendonk 1993, Warsaw 1996 and Mexico 1999 the Commission saw membership grow in more than 100 countries over all  the world.  At that time, the Commission really became the International Catholic forum for  Prison Pastoral Care.

During the Jubilee Year 2000,  the Executive Board, on behalf of the Commission, applied for ecclesial recognition as Public Commission of the Faithful.  For this reason its Statutes were adjusted and the name is "International Commission of Catholic Prison Pastoral Care".

In the same year, the Commission was affiliated to the United Nations as a Non Governmental Organization in special consultative status.


2. Fundamentals

Evangelical foundation

It is the central Mission of the Church to bring the Good News of Christ to the whole world. In a clear evangelical attitude this Commission will open up this appeal in a diverse prison world, by preserving and promoting the dignity of the prison community, both residents and personnel, by working for their integral human and religious development. No one can be excluded from being a member of the human community.

Christ received all those who came to Him, whatever their condition.  He was “the friend of publicans and sinners" (Lk 7:34).  Many other words in the bible speak about trespasses and forgiveness: "Go in peace, and sin no more" (John 8:1-12); your brother should be forgiven "not seven times, but seventy times seven" (Mt 18:22).

Christ doesn't teach us only by his words, but also by his example: He came not to the righteous, but to the sinners (Mt 9: 13). He encourages his followers to look for the lost sheep (Lk 15:4).

God is rich in mercy and love (Eph. 2:4) and it is the duty of the Church to show compassion and mercy to those entrusted to its care.  Working with the prisoners should always be in conjunction with the victim, but it excludes self-judgement and revenge.  The sentence should not lead to destruction, but to healing and integration into the community (Hebr 12:13).

Remember the prisoners, as if You were in prison yourself.  Remember the victim, as if You were one yourself (Hebr 13,3).


Ecclesial foundation

The Church endeavors to serve the people of God as Jesus did, attentive to all but especially to the most needy with whom Jesus identified himself. The community is the theological and sociological place where pastoral care , including prison pastoral care, is exercised.

From the day when Jesus promised paradise to "the good thief” to the day Pope John Paul II sent his papal letter on prison pastoral care to the world[1], the traditional practice of the Church, despite many shortcomings due to human frailty and sinfulness, has been to take with all seriousness our Lord's words: "I was in prison and you visited Me" (Mt 25:36).  This tradition has received support from the magisterium of the Church, especially in recent years. The dogmatic constitution "Lumen Gentium" and the pastoral constitution "Gaudium et Spes" were followed by the papal encyclicals "Redemptor Hominis"(1978),"Dives in Misericordia"(1980), "Evangelium Vitae" (1995) and “Novo Millennio Eunte” (2000).They have much to say about the mission of the Church, particularly to the marginalized, about the rights and dignity of every human person and about the boundless love and mercy of God towards all.


Juridical foundation

The Commission finds its juridical foundation in several important documents of the United Nations: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Standard Minimum Rules for Treatment of Prisoners, as well as in documents of other international bodies[2] .
















            Art. 1. Name and nature


§  1.  The International Commission of Catholic Prison Pastoral Care is a  worldwide Association of country delegates for Catholic Prison Pastoral Care, composed of clerical and lay persons. 


§   2.  The Commission is governed by the present Statutes and what is not anticipated in them, the norms of the Canon Law  of the Catholic Church provide.


Art. 2.  The legal seat of the Commission is in Biltstraat 121, 3507 LA, Utrecht (Netherlands).  The Head Office and the mailing address are located in the country of the Secretary General.


Art. 3.  The motto of the Commission is: “Vinculum Unitatis” (“bound of unity”).  The logo of the Commission is two hands reaching out to each other, one from behind prison bars, representing three crosses.



            Art. 4.  Objectives


            The fundamental objectives of the Commission are:


1.      To awaken and encourage within the worldwide Church and society a greater awareness of and sensitivity to the exercise of Prison Pastoral Care.


2.      To animate the respective Episcopal Conferences and the Local Ordinary to establish and further Prison Pastoral Care, which is the mission of the Church, offering the best support.


3.      To organize ongoing formation courses, study, current information and meetings for prison pastoral agents and for members of the Commission.


4.      To promote the humanization, revision and reform of the prison system throughout the world.


Art. 5.  Means and activities

To realize these objectives, the Commission proposes the following:


1.      Advise on the action of the prison pastoral care concerning the human and spiritual development of prisoners.


2.      Collaborate in the organization of activities on behalf of Prison Pastoral Care agents and meetings for the exchange of experiences on the regional and international level.


3.      Represent and defend, should this prove necessary, the interests of the prison community.


4.      Present and defend issues related to the ministry of prison pastoral care before international and regional organizations, in collaboration with  Delegations or Commissions of the Catholic Church, whenever possible.


5.      Publish newsletters, guidelines, documentation, etc.


6.      Encourage all sectors of society, especially Catholic and other religious groups as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs), to pursue and defend the respect for human rights within prisons.


7.      Collaborate with international agencies and institutions which have similar aims.



Art. 6. Members


1.      Delegate Member.  A delegate member is a person, appointed or recognized by the respective Episcopal Conference  and responsible for Prison Pastoral Care. An Episcopal Conference may have only one Delegate per country.


2.      Affiliate Member.  All persons involved in Catholic Prison Pastoral Care are eligible for Affiliate Membership.


3.      Honorary Member.  A person may be named as an Honorary Member.  Only the Plenary Assembly may convey this honorary title.  It includes  membership in the Commission without the right to vote.


4.      Patron. The Executive Board reserves the right to appoint notable persons as patrons.



Art. 7. Rights of Members


1. Delegate members:


1.      are members of the Plenary Assembly with both active and passive vote.


2.      participate in the activities of the Commission.  The person nominated must exercise this right; however, in cases where an impediment exists, the delegate must name a substitute.


3.      present candidates for nomination to positions or responsibilities within the Commission.




2. Affiliate Members:


1.      Attend meetings of the Plenary Assembly without voting rights.


2.      Avail themselves of the various services of the Commission.


3.      Participate in the activities of the Commission.


4.      Contribute their dues, as and when required.



Art. 8.  Duties


            1. The duties of the delegate members are:


1.      To participate actively in the work of the Commission and to assume assigned responsibilities, if there is no reasonable excuse. Should a delegate repeatedly not comply, the Executive Board will notify the Episcopal Conference or delegating authority.


2.      To inform the Secretary General in writing at least every three years concerning the situation of Prison Chaplaincy in the country.


3.      To pay the annual dues as established by the General Assembly.


2.  The duty of the affiliate members is to contribute their dues, as and when                                                                                                                                                                                              required.


Art. 9.  Loss of Membership


1.      A delegate member looses the membership when the corresponding Episcopal Conference revokes the appointment or recognition.


2.      An affiliate member looses the membership when the annual dues for three successive years upon written request by the Treasurer are not paid


3.      A member is dismissed by decision of the Executive Board if, in its unanimous judgment, that member acts in a way that is totally contrary to the objectives and interests of the Commission. The Executive Board will notify the Episcopal Conference.



Organs of Government and Juridical administration



            Art. 10.  The Plenary Assembly

1.      The Plenary Assembly is the highest organ of the Commission.  It is convoked and chaired by the President of the Commission.


2.      The Assembly, by law, is normally convoked every three years.  It may also be convoked when the Executive Board so decides or when one fifth of the delegate members request convocation.   


3.      The Assembly is convoked, in writing, by the President with a six months notice in advance.  The convocation must also contain the agenda. The Plenary Assembly is chaired by the President, the Vice-President or a person appointed by him. At the beginning of the meeting, the President, after hearing the opinion of the Executive Board, will appoint two secretaries to act at the service of the Secretary General.


4.      The Assembly is composed of all members of the Commission, although only delegates have the right to vote.


5.      The Assembly has the right to create new Regions, as and when required.


Art. 11. Competencies of the Plenary Assembly


Besides all competencies included in the Statutes, the Plenary Assembly has the authority to:


1.      Elect the President and Vice-President of the Commission. Both candidates should be proposed according to article 14 of the present Statutes.


2.      Elect the members of the Executive Board, who represent the Regions.  Each Region will propose in writing, at the beginning of the Assembly, no more than two members from its Region.


3.      Approve the President’s Triennial report.


4.      Approve priorities for the next working period.


5.      Establish annual dues and other financial obligations.




Art. 12.  The Executive Board


§  1.  The Executive Board is the ordinary governing organ of the Commission.  It is presided over by the President.


§  2.  The Executive Board consists of the President, Vice-President, a member from each of the Regions, the Treasurer and the Secretary General.  The mandate of the elected members is usually for three years, adapted to the needs of the Assembly, with the possibility of re-election to a new mandate.


§  3 All terms of office are coincident with the ordinary Plenary Assembly.


Art. 13.  Competencies of the Executive Board


Besides other competencies that are given to it in other articles of the Statutes or by right:


1.      The Executive Board moderates and directs the work of the Commission and executes decisions of the Plenary Assembly.


2.      The Executive Board must report to the Plenary Assembly.


3.      The Executive Board has the right to cover vacancies that occur within the Commission.  These appointments last until the end of the mandate.


4.      The Executive Board examines applications for admission to the Commission on the basis of the mandated competence.


5.      The Executive Board will establish an Economic Council according to cc 1280.


6.      The Executive Board can nominate consultants who, although not members of the Commission, may participate in its meetings in an advisory role.


7.      The Executive Board decides upon the place, date and preparation for the Plenary Assemblies.


8.      The Executive Board has the final decision in all matters within its competence.



Art. 14.  The President


1.      These are the powers of the President of the Commission, without   prejudice  to other competencies to which they may correspond:


a)     To preside over and direct the Commission and to represent it in a juridical sense in all negotiations and before external bodies.


b)     To preside over the Plenary Assembly and the meetings of the Executive Board, according to art. 10,3.


c)      To inform the Plenary Assembly of the life and activities of the Commission and its future.


2.      Only a Delegate member of the Commission who has been legitimately proposed may hold the Presidency of the Commission.


3.      The election of the President must take place in the following manner. Four months prior to the Plenary Assembly: a) each of the Regions will propose, in writing, any  two candidates for the Presidency; b)  likewise a candidate for President may be proposed by a consensus that includes more than one fifth of the total Delegate members. They must present this in writing within the  mentioned time frame. No one can support more than one petition. 



            Art. 15.  The Vice-President


The Vice-President:

1.      Is elected by the Plenary Assembly after the election of the President, from among other candidates who have been presented (art. 14 d).


2.      Assists the President in his function and substitutes for the President in his absence.


3.      In case of the President’s death or inability to exercise his functions for any reason, the Vice-President will assume the Presidency until the end of the mandate.



Art. 16.  The Treasurer


The Treasurer:

1.      Is appointed by the Executive Board and is constituted as a member of this Board, with a right to vote.


2.      Directs the accounts and makes payments according to the President’s approval.


3.      Prepares the annual budget.


4.      Prepares the financial statement for presentation to the Executive Board, the Plenary Assembly and the Holy See.


5.      Administers income and expenses


6.      Administers  with special attention to cc. 1300-1307.



Art. 17.  The Secretary General


The Secretary General:


1.      Is appointed by the Executive Board and is a member of this Board, with the right to vote.


2.      Directs the Commission’s Secretariat accordingly.


3.      Assumes responsibility for minutes, archives and correspondence.


4.      Assists and supports the President and the Executive Board in international relations and in overall secretarial duties.


Art. 18.  Representation of the Commission


The Commission is officially represented to parties in legal matters when the signature of the President and the signature of another member of the Executive Board is presented on relevant documents, according to art 15.


Art. 19.  Juridical Administration, election and voting procedures


A quorum of one third of delegate members is required for the validity of the Plenary Assembly.

Each delegate member has only one vote. Written authority, addressed to the President of the Commission, may be given to any member to vote by proxy. The proxy must be a general delegation to vote in every ballot. No one can vote by proxy for more than one country.


 §  1.  For elections, an absolute majority of votes from those who are present is required for the first and second ballot.  If this is not successful, the third ballot will include the two candidates who have received the highest number of votes.  In this case, a relative majority is sufficient.  In the case of a tie, the person who has been member of the Commission for the longest period of time will be elected.


§  2.  Absolute majority of votes of those present is required for the acceptance of a proposal.  In case of a tie, the voting continues on to a second ballot.  In this case, the vote also requires an absolute majority.  If a new tie occurs, the President decides about the proposal. If the proposal is negative or abstained, the motion is considered as refused because an absolute majority was not reached.


§  3.  These rules are also valid for actions of the Plenary Assembly or the Executive Board, as well as for the commissions that are established for special assignments.


§ 4. In a case where there is no provision in the articles for election or voting, common canonical law will take effect.


Art. 20.  The Commission and the Regions


§ 1.  The Region, as defined by the Plenary Assembly, can organize, on its own initiative, in agreement with the Bishops of the respective Episcopal Conference,  activities in their particular Region.  The Region is responsible for the organization and the financing of the activities.


§ 2.  The Commission may collaborate with persons, publications or other forms of media or support in activities that promote the Commission’s objectives and that are organized on its own initiative by delegates of the Region, the delegation of a Nation, or by the Episcopal Conference.  The Representative of the Region in the Executive Board will be the principal agent of this collaboration.  


Art. 21. The material goods and their administration


1.      The material goods of the Commission consist of  dues by members, donations, investments, bequests, gifts from foundations, interests and deposits of the Commission’s resources.


2.      All business of the Commission shall be covered by means of the Commission, and  responsibility will not fall on individual members. Likewise, no member of the Commission has the right over the goods of the Commission.


3.      Reasonable expenses incurred by members of the Executive Board in preparing for its meetings shall be reimbursed by the Commission, whenever possible.


4.      Attendants to the Plenary Assembly are personally responsible for their own expenses. The President, after having consulted with the Executive Board, may give Commission funds to help members who find themselves in peculiar circumstances.


5.      The fiscal year both begins and ends with the calendar year.


6.      Each year, according to Canon Law  cc. 319 § 2, 1287 §1, a financial report will be sent to the Holy See.


7.      An Economic Council is established according cc 1280. Members of the Executive Board cannot be member of this Council.


Art. 22.  Acts of Extraordinary Administration


§ 1. Provisions in the annual budget are considered acts of ordinary administration.


§ 2.  Outside of this, all others are considered extraordinary administrative acts which exceed the annual budgeted amount by over one third.


§ 3.  The competent authority for the validation of extraordinary acts of administration shall be the Commission Justitia et Pax.


Art. 23. Changes in the Statutes


A change in the Statutes of the Commission requires a majority of two thirds of the members present in a Plenary Assembly that has at least one third of Delegate Members of the Commission, according to art. 19.  The proposed change(s) must have been communicated three months in advance. 

Art. 24.  Dissolution of the Commission


§ 1.  The Commission, as a juridical person, ceases to exist in the manner prescribed by Canon Law, c. 120 § 2. 


§ 2.  A petition of dissolution shall be considered legitimate when the Plenary Assembly, with a majority of  two thirds of its Delegate Members, decides upon such. If a Plenary Assembly cannot be held, written consent suffices. The decision shall be sent by the President to the Holy See.


§ 3. It is the will of the Commission that in the case of dissolution and after all outstanding debts have been liquidated, the remaining goods should be donated to Caritas Internationalis, as long as the Plenary Assembly does not decide otherwise..

[1] Johannes Paulus II, Message for the Jubilee in prisons, July 9, 2000.

[2] "Everyone has  the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion”, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, U.N.O. December 10, 1948.

In the Standard Minimum Rules for Treatment of Prisoners we read:

“ There shall be no discrimination on grounds of race, color, sex, language,. religion...","On the other hand it is necessary to respect the religious beliefs and moral precepts of the group to which a prisoner belongs. “

"lf the institution contains a sufficient number of prisoners of the same religion, a qualified representative of that religion shall be appointed or approved.  If the number of prisoners justify it, and conditions permit, the arrangements should be on a full-time basis.  "A qualified representative appointed or approved under paragraph I shall be allowed to hold regular services and to pay pastoral visits in private to prisoners of his religion at proper times.”  "Access to a qualified representative of any religion shall not be refused to any prisoner. On the other hand, if any prisoner should object to a visit of any religious representative, his attitude shall be fully respected."

In the Treatment on Economical and Social ….. we read:

So far as practicable, every prisoner shall be allowed to satisfy  the needs of his religious life by attending the services provided in the institution and having in his possession the books of religious observance and instruction of his denomination.”