Prison Sunday is an opportunity to acknowledge the important work carried out by Catholic prison chaplains across Australia. In 2016, during the Extraordinary Year of Mercy, Pope Francis declared a ‘Jubilee for Prisoners’. Since then, the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Commission for Social Justice, Mission and Service has continued the practice of featuring and acknowledging prison ministry in some way on the first Sunday in November. Here in Victoria, our chaplains (religious, priests and volunteers) continue to support the care, rehabilitation and reconciliation of those in prison. In this video message, Archbishop Peter A Comensoli offers his gratitude to these chaplains, especially during this time of the pandemic.
Friends, we've just come out of a time of lockdown and over this whole period of time of the pandemic, we've become somewhat used to what it feels like to be isolated, unconnected from those that we love, and from those that we care for. And lockdown itself has been like a captivity and all of those associated feelings that might be a part of our lives. I make mention of this because also during all of this time that we’ve experienced that pandemic lockdown, there have been some 4,000 fellow Victorians who are in the prisons within our state, who have not only gone through the lockdown of COVID, but also the lockdown as a result of their own actions and misdeeds in the past.
This coming Sunday is Prison Sunday. And so I wanted to just draw our attention to the realities for prisoners, recognising that they would be there for a reason, but nonetheless, our brothers and sisters in our humanity. We have some 4,000 men and women in prisons in Victoria, in the six prisons that exist, and we have for their wellbeing, an enormous sense of care for prisoners that is a part of our Catholic faith. As you know, Jesus said that we should be with those who are alone and in prison. Blessed are those who go and visit those who are in prison.
On this Prison Sunday, I just want to acknowledge the many chaplains – the lay chaplains, and the very large number of volunteers, and the 40 or so priests who visit the prisons within Victoria. It is a really important ministry. The outreach to those who are in very much broken lives, themselves in need of mercy and forgiveness and rehabilitation. That others will be available to reach out to them as Christians for the care of them is so important. So on this Prison Sunday, can I ask that you might firstly pray for those who are imprisoned, and in doing so praying also for those who have been affected by the actions that has led to their imprisonment – but pray for them, for their rehabilitation, for their reconciliation, for their living once more a better life. But also pray for their families and for those who care for them: the chaplains, the lay volunteers, priests who go and visit for Mass and for all those who in some way or another look to the wellbeing, the looking after, in their very basic humanity, those who are imprisoned.