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Friday, November 26, 2004


VATICAN CITY, NOV 26, 2004 (VIS) - John Paul II this morning received the participants in a conference in Rome of directors of prison administrations of the 45 States that adhere to the Council of Europe.

  He noted that they "are reflecting on how to make European prison rules better respond to the needs of prisoners. ... In every civil nation there must be shared concern for preserving the inalienable rights of every human being." Therefore, he said, "you must correct eventual laws and norms which hinder (these rights), especially when it is a matter of the right to life and to health, the right to culture, to work, to the exercise of freedom of thought and to the profession of one's own faith.

  "Respecting human dignity is a value of European culture whose roots are based in  Christianity; it is a universal human value and, as such, is open to the broadest consensus. Every State must take care to see that full attention to basic human rights is guaranteed in all prisons."

  The Holy Father said that "measures that are simply repressive or punitive, to which one normally has recourse today, are inadequate for reaching the objective of an authentic recuperation of inmates. ... It is necessary to abolish those physical and moral treatments that are harmful to human dignity, and to commit yourselves to better qualifying professionally the role of those who work within penal institutes."

  After urging them to seek penalties that are alternatives to prison, "with programs of human, professional and spiritual formation," the Pope spoke of the work of chaplains, whose duty, he said "is a delicate task and in many ways irreplaceable." Further, he said, "how can we fail to note the volunteer institutions and associations dedicated to the welfare of prisoners and to their reinsertion into society?"

  John Paul II underscored that "respect for the human dignity of prisoners must not occur to the detriment of concern for society. For this reason, citizens must be defended, even with those forms of deterrence that are represented by penalties that serve as examples. But the dutiful application of justice to defend citizens and public order must not contrast with the due attention to the rights of prisoners and to rehabilitating them; on the contrary, this is a question of two aspects that must be integrated. Prevention and repression, detention and rehabilitation, are complementary acts."
AC/PRISON ADMINISTRATIONS/...                VIS 20041126 (400)

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