Pontianak, Msgr Agus asks priests to help prisoners
by Mathias Hariyadi

‚ÄčIn Indonesia, pastoral work with prisoners is carried out by lay people and very few religious. The archbishop of Pontiak urged priests to stay close to Catholic prisoners, who are often involved in drug trafficking. Fr Burrows: "They seek spiritual comfort and a friend to talk to".


Pontianak (AsiaNews) - "Catholics in prisons are also members of our congregation. If even one of them invites me to celebrate the Eucharist in the detention centre, I will go and celebrate Mass". These are the words of the Archbishop of Pontianak, Mgr Agustinus Agus, who visited several prisons in West Kalimantan during the Christmas season. 

The cleric shared his comments during a celebration with dozens of former theology students from across Indonesia on the evening of 11 January. "As a local prelate of this huge archdiocese, my personal intention is simple: I urge all priests to avoid laziness and turn our care and attention to Catholic prisoners, especially when they finish their prison term and come out with less confidence," the archbishop said. 

"The reluctance among priests to visit prisoners because of the pandemic is not acceptable," the cardinal continued. "Many pastoral assistants have shown their compassion, so why do priests always keep themselves safe instead?"

Many Catholic detainees are young people arrested for drug use or trade. "The involvement of our young people in this dirty business," says Mgr Agus, "worries us; that is why our care for them is important and necessary".

Pastoral service among prisoners is an increasingly rare activity in Indonesia: in most cases it depends on the personal initiatives of individuals.

Father Charles "Carolus" Burrows of Cilacap has access to the maximum security prison of Nusakambangan to celebrate Mass with prisoners on Wednesdays of the third week of each month: "I have always tried to show sympathy and compassion even to non-Christian prisoners, they are always welcome at communion too," the Oblate missionary of Mary Immaculate tells AsiaNews

"What they seek in the Church is spiritual comfort and a friend with whom they can freely share their hopes and anguish," Fr Carolus explained. In Yogyakarta, the late Fr Jan Weitjens, a Jesuit lecturer in Church history at the Faculty of Theology, was engaged in a similar activity.