The meeting in Panama started Tuesday and runs through Saturday.
In his message to the meeting, Cardinal François Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, prays that “the Holy Spirit will show all those responsible for penitentiary pastoral care the criteria and most adequate ways for the new evangelization in the prison world: a world that is often subsumed in suffering, loneliness and despair. It is a world that urgently needs the liberating word of the Gospel.”
A longtime prisoner of the Communists in his native Vietnam, the cardinal added: “The light of hope must continue to shine in the hearts of the prisoners. Therefore, it is of vital importance to ensure a close and gentle presence of the Church in prisons.”
Noting the many priests, deacons, religious and lay people who work in prison ministries, he states: “It is necessary to increasingly cultivate this apostolate, so that the presence of the Good Samaritan, who came to cure our wounds, is tangible and fortifying, especially for those who for a variety of reasons are deprived of physical liberty.”