Pope Benedict Calls On Prison Directors to Promote A 'More Genuine Justice'

Participants of Conference on Prison Administration Granted Audience with Pontiff

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By Junno Arocho

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 23, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Pope Benedict XVI addressed the directors of Prison Administration of the Council of Europe yesterday. The directors present were participants of the 17th Conference of directors of Prison Administration. The Holy Father, who delivered his statements in English, stressed the importance of human dignity and human rights in matters of criminal justice. The Pope also said, however, that to safeguard the rights of the individual is not enough.

"A concrete commitment is needed, not just a statement of principle, in order to bring about the offender’s effective re-education, which is required both for the sake of his own dignity and with a view to his reintegration into society," the Holy Father said.

"The prisoner’s personal need to undergo in prison a process of rehabilitation and maturation is actually a need of society itself, both because it stands to regain someone who can make a useful contribution to the common good, and also because such a process makes the prisoner less likely to reoffend and thus endanger society."

Though highlighting the progress that has been made in this regard, Pope Benedict emphasized that it is "not just a question of releasing sufficient financial resources" to ensure a more dignified life for prisoners, but that a change of mentality is also necessary. Such a change would thus "link the debate regarding respect for the human rights of prisoners with the broader debate concerning the actual implementation of criminal justice."

Pope Benedict echoed the words of Blessed Pope John Paul II, calling on the directors of Prison Administration to promote a "'more genuine' justice that is 'open to the liberating power of love' and is tied to human dignity."

"Your role, in a certain sense, is even more crucial than that of the legislators, since even when adequate structures and resources are in place, the effectiveness of re-educational strategies always depends on the sensitivity, ability and attentiveness of those called to put into practice what is prescribed on paper," he said.

"The task of prison officers, at whatever level they operate, is by no means easy. That is why today, through you, I would like to pay tribute to all those in prison administration who carry out their duties with diligence and dedication."

The Holy Father concluded his address emphasizing the significance of the evangelization and spiritual care which would awaken in the prisoner an enthusiasm for life.

"Where there is confidence in the possibility of renewal, prison can perform its re-educational function and become the occasion for the offender to taste the redemption won by Christ through the Paschal Mystery, which guarantees victory over all evil," the Holy Father concluded.