Message from Our Bishops

Message from Cardinal John Dew,

on behalf of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops

The ministry of prison chaplains and volunteers takes them to places many of us would fear or avoid. Being present to inmates in the prison environment is an act of connecting inmates to our community at a time when they are most isolated and connects them with the faith dimension and their relationship with God during a time which can and should be a time of reconciliation and restoration.

Justice that restores is built upon the restoration of peace and right relationships in the community, not on the judgement of others. The aim of Catholic prison ministry is to be a channel of restoring peace and healing to our brothers and sisters who are currently behind bars.

The common good is upheld and advanced when we recognise the human dignity of those affected by acts of crime both victim and offender. For offenders when we can help them to see their self-worth and their value in the eyes of God we can accompany them on the journey towards rehabilitation and a return to the community.

The political rhetoric that encourages people to believe that a safer society is achieved through harsher punishments and more prisons without adequate education or treatments for substance addictions are particularly unhelpful and don’t heal the underlying issues that cause a person to offend. A restorative approach to justice which comes out of our faith tradition is one that holds people accountable and challenges them to look at ways to turn their lives around, and thus time spent in prison can be fruitful.

All those involved in ministry to prisoners and those returning to the community can be assured of our prayerful support.

Cardinal John Dew
President of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference