ECPPC marks 48 years; launches new book on prison ministry

March 25, 2023 - 3:24 PM
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Military Bishop Oscar Jaime Florencio and CBCP-ECPPC executive secretary Fr. Nezelle Lirio lead the launching of the “Source Book on Prison Ministry and Justice that Heals” at the CBCP Chapel on March 24, 2023. (CBCP News)

The prison ministry arm of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines marked its 48th anniversary on Friday by releasing a new book on ‘justice that heals’.

The “Source Book on Prison Ministry and Justice that Heals” was launched before a Mass to celebrate the establishment of the Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care in 1975.

Now on its sixth edition, the book highlights restorative justice as the preferred paradigm for a new criminal justice system.

Bishop Joel Baylon, ECCPC chairman, said the book has served as guide and tool in understanding the nature and scope of the prison apostolate and in responding to the challenges that they entail.

“At the very foundation of this source book is the Church’s firm conviction that justice is never punitive but rather restorative,” Baylon said in a message.

“Justice is not meant to kill but to enhance life and to help heal the person who has committed an offense against persons or society,” he said.

With former ECPPC executive secretary Rodolfo Diamante as the editor, the 192-page book carries the theme, “Listening, Healing, and Loving”— which are at the core of Church’s prison ministry.

The book is divided into four main sections: systematic environment for prison work, the Church’s response, ECPPC’s major advocacies, and restorative justice.

Forty-eight years ago, a number of prisoners at the death row of the New Bilibid Prison wrote a letter to the CBCP asking the Church to look at the welfare of people like them who have been isolated, discriminated against and forgotten.

On March 25, 1975, the CBCP responded to the petition of the prisoners and formed the Episcopal Commission on Prisoners Welfare (ECOPRIW), which served as the Church’s agency charged to look at the welfare of prisoners.

In 1998, the agency became known as the Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care (ECPPC).

Today’s Mass for the anniversary celebration was presided over by Bishop Oscar Jaime Florencio of the Military Ordinariate of the Philippines and member of ECPPC.

Among those present were several prison chaplains and volunteers in prison service.