Legazpi bishop: Synod should also listen to prisoners

Bishop Joel Baylon released a message on behalf of the Bishops' Conference on the occasion of Prison Awareness Day, which falls on this Sunday. More than 165,000 people are currently in Philippine prisons, one of the most overcrowded prison systems in the world.

Manila (AsiaNews) – The synodal path to which Pope Francis has called the Church for the next two years must also involve people who are incarcerated, this according to a statement released by Philippine bishops on the occasion of this year’s Prison Awareness Day, which falls next Sunday.

In the press release, Bishop Joel Baylon of Legazpi, president of the Commission on Prison Pastoral Care of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, says that this day provides an opportunity to reaffirm the values ‚Äč‚Äčthat lie at the root of the commitment of chaplains, men and women religious and lay people who carry out their service in prisons.

The goal is to defend “life as we should, [show] respect for human dignity and human rights even for the persons deprived of liberty”, providing them with “the opportunity to defend themselves in court as they continue to wait for whatever sentence that they may receive and [. . .] help them trust that if and when they are given a new lease on life, they will be able to feel welcomed by society”.

Currently, more than 165,000 people are held in Philippine prisons, 63.9 per cent waiting for trial, one of the most overcrowded prison systems in the world, despite the fact that tens of thousands of inmates were released during the COVID-19 emergency.

For Bishop Baylon, the Church’s commitment to serve those in prison also represents "a response to the invitation of our Holy Father Pope Francis as he calls us to walk in this synod on synodality”.

This journey in the Church allows us to recognise “one another, especially those who are in special situations in their lives: those who are oftentimes relegated to the peripheries of society, those who are forgotten even judged for whatever wrongs they have done to others and community. And this is specifically and especially true with these people whom we serve in prison.”

“May we be able to provide them the experience of solidarity and synodality as Church recognizing their dignity as human beings, defending life as we should, their lives their dreams their hopes and may the Holy Spirit sustain us in these efforts and make them truthful and meaningful”.