Igarapé, Brazil, 7 February 2020 – In the beginning of February 2020, the pastors and Vicar of the Parishes of Igarapé and São Joaquim de Bicas received a letter from Dom José Carlos Campos, Bishop of Divinópolis, in support of the prison ministry in the Bicas Prison Complex. Brother Henrique Matos CMM is involved in this prison chaplaincy through the APC foundation (Apoio à Pastoral Carcerária – Prison Chaplaincy Support).
We hereby share some extracts from this letter with you, and we hope it may also inspire our readers to look at the inmate sister or brother as a human being with whom Jesus himself identified himself. And where the bishop speaks of prisoners in Bicas prison, his words of course apply to all those imprisoned, worldwide:
I, the Lord Jesus, was arrested and you came to visit me!
“Brothers and sisters of Igarapé and São Joaquim de Bicas,
Those who are deprived of their freedom and serving time in the Bicas prison also need religious and spiritual assistance.
There are human beings, regardless of what they have done wrong, who need to be helped in the process of changing behavior and life.
We need agents for the pastoral care in prison in order to take seriously the presence and care of Jesus in the person of the prisoner. We are not the ones who decide where Christ must be so that we can take care of Him. But it is he who chose to be in prison and invited us to visit him. Pastoral care of prisoners is neither public policy nor judicial decision: it is a mission, it is a commitment of faith, it is fidelity to Master Jesus.
This letter is an invitation to strengthen the prison chaplaincy. If you feel called to meet Jesus in this place and in this mission, go and find a course or training prison chaplaincy [or become a volunteer] to provide the very important and necessary reinforcement to the prison chaplaincy.
Let us not focus on the sins and crimes that someone has committed (we all also commit them to some extent!), But let us look at the inmate sister or brother as a human being with whom Jesus himself identified himself: “I was arrested and you went to visit me”.
Dom José Carlos Campos, Bishop of Divinópolis, MG, Brazil