(Vatican Radio) The International Prison Chaplains Association, or IPCA, is holding a European conference here in Rome next week to reflect on the particular challenges facing minorities within the prison system. IPCA is an international, ecumenical network providing support to chaplains, both lay and ordained, working in many different contexts in countries right across the globe.
Rev Bill Cave is vice-chairman of IPCA Europe and works as a prison chaplain at The Verne – now an immigration detention centre - in the south of England.
He talked to Philippa Hitchen about the conference and about the relevance of prison ministry during this Jubilee year of mercy.
There are no easy answers to the problems facing minorities in prison, he says and the conference will explore the different definitions of religious, ethnic or political minorities or those facing discrimination on the basis of gender identity…
While IPCA started with Protestant prison chaplains in the mid 1980s, he says, it rapidly expanded to include Catholics and Orthodox too. While it continues to affirm its history as a Christian organisation, it also sees hospitality as an important part of its tradition so welcomes people of other faiths to set an example of cooperation in this area of ministry.
As well as listening to presentations on theology, scripture and political identity, participants hope to visit at least one of Rome’s prisons to see first-hand some of the challenges facing minorities within the Italian jail system. Rev Bill Cave says while this is a way of following the example set by Pope Francis and his predecessors, such visits are also an important way of ensuring integrity and good practice within custodian institutions.
Working at The Verne, he says, with its particularly dispossessed population, he is very aware of the Pope's challenge during this Jubilee year, not just to understand God's mercy for ourselves, but to begin to become merciful individuals and institutions in our dealings with others...