By ZENIT Staff

A Catholic bishop has advised those who want to join the prison ministry to start with juvenile offenders before moving to adult correction services, according to CBCP News.

Filipino Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan said it would help them understand prisoners and their rehabilitation and integration back into society.

“I suggest you start with CICL (children in conflict with the law). It will change all your perspective about prisoners, ”David said.

The acting president of the bishops’ conference was speaking during the online General Assembly of Chaplains and Volunteers in Prison Service on Saturday.

He said that many young offenders had a history of maltreatment and neglect before they get involved in crimes.

“So I suggest you start with them. You will hear what they went through,” David pointed out.

The bishop added that aspiring prison volunteers may also start with shelters for street children or do mission in slum communities.

According to him, street children are “potential criminals” so helping them is “a good start for our apostolate”.

“We know that they can be criminals so why don’t we start with them,” he said.

The online conference was part of the Prison Awareness Week celebration organized by the bishops’ Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care (ECPPC).

The yearly observance concluded on Sunday with an online Mass presided over by Bishop Joel Baylon of Legazpi, who chairs the ECPPC.

In his homily, he emphasized that caring for prisoners is a matter of Christian duty.

“It is important that their needs, dignity and human rights are heard, supported and defended, Baylon said.

The bishop also reiterated the Church’s call that “true justice must be restorative and not punitive”.

“So we have a duty to extend our hands to them so that they do not lose hope,” he said.

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