Inmates can be saints, too – Bilibid chaplain

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MANILA, Oct. 22, 2012— A saint from notorious gangs like “Sputnik” and “Bahala na”? Why not, a Catholic priest said.

Msgr. Bobby Olaguer, chaplain in New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City, said that all people are sinners and yet have the opportunities to become saints.

According to him, the bad thing about humanity is that good people can be tempted to commit wicked things.

However, he said that no character is incapable of being transformed through faith even the world’s worst sinners.

“There are saints who lived a holy life and there are also those who became sinners before becoming a saint. We all have a past but we also have a future,” Olaguer said.

“The opportunity for transformation is always there. That’s why we are doing everything to prepare our inmates for the future, not just their freedom from prison, but their future in facing God,” he said.

The Philippines yesterday got its second saint after Pope Benedict XVI canonized Pedro Calungsod along with six other martyrs of the Church in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square in Rome.

The priest also said that Catholic faith teaches people to demonstrate compassion towards the most marginalized and forgotten in society.

He called on the faithful not to fear the inmates but to seek humanity in the wrongdoers at the prisoners and their victims “as our neighbors and show them our love.”

“Prisoners are human beings. We should not fear them. Let’s show compassion and our care for them instead,” he said.

Olaguer led a Mass Monday to open the Church’s celebration of the Prison Awareness Week at the chapel of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ office in Intramuros, Manila.

With the theme, “Lord that I may see,” several activities will be held to inform the public of the reform agenda on justice by the church and non-government agencies involved.

On Oct. 24, a forum, facilitated by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, will be held at the BJMO conference hall in Quezon City to help address issues affecting the church’s ministry to inmates.

The forum also seeks to promote the adoption of a more restorative intervention in the country’s penal system and the need to pass legislations that will enhance the dignity of the prisoners.

A “solidarity” event for inmates will be held at the NBP on Oct. 26 and at the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong City on October 27.

Organized by the CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care (ECPPC), the activities aim to “celebrate with the prisoners the unconditional love of God.”

“The gathering is especially intended to the less privileged people and the solidarity of the volunteers with the flight of the prisoners and their families,” said Rodolfo Diamante, ECPPC executive secretary.

ECCPC chairman and Military Ordinariate Bishop Leopoldo Tumulak will preside a Mass to celebrate the Prison Sunday at the Shrine of St. Therese of the Child Jesus in Pasay City on October 28.

After the liturgical celebration, Tumulak will lead the awarding of outstanding individuals who have served in the prison ministry for at least three years.

Diamante said the ECPPC’s 86 volunteers in prison service’s (VIP) units nationwide will also conduct similar activities in their respective archdioceses and dioceses.

The Church is advocating for restorative justice, which includes better conditions in the country’s jail facilities and humane treatment for prisoners, especially the sick and elderly. (RL/CBCPNews)


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