The Hierarchs of the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas
Prison Ministry Awareness Sunday Encyclical
Thursday, May 22, 2008
I was in prison, and you visited me.
St. Matthew 25:36
June 1, 2008
The Sixth Sunday of Pascha
To all the Clergy and the Laity of the Holy Orthodox Churches in the Americas
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Christ is Risen!
We, the Hierarchs of SCOBA, are by the grace of God blessed to designate the Sixth Sunday of Pascha, this year on June 1, 2008, to be Prison Ministry Awareness Sunday in all Orthodox parishes of North America. For this reason, SCOBA took on the sponsorship of the Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry (OCPM), accepting it as an Agency of SCOBA, much like International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) and the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC).
We have embraced this diakonia in keeping with the example of our Lord, Who shunned not the sinners, but preached His message of love and forgiveness to tax collectors and sinners, and Who included visiting and ministering to prisoners as the basic expressions of Christian faith and love (St. Matthew 25:36). SCOBA encourages the faithful to learn about supporting prison ministry and the prison ministers who actually enter these institutions to bring the Gospel of hope and salvation to the incarcerated.
Most prisoners suffer from the burdens of their consciences, from their confinement, and from their fears of being unable to function in society. By guiding them to the spiritual way of life found in the Church, we not only help to make better citizens for our society, but we also make potential citizens of God's Kingdom. By teaching prisoners the joy and perspective on life that repentance brings, we open to them the path to conversion leading to the fullness of life granted by Christ.
We ask all of our parishes to find ways to support OCPM, and perpetuate this good work, which can literally bring salvation to countless prisoners by providing literature and ministry opportunities to those who thirst for God's mercy and compassion.
With paternal blessings and love in the Risen Christ,
+Archbishop DEMETRIOS, Chairman
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
+Metropolitan PHILIP, Vice Chairman
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
+Metropolitan CHRISTOPHER, Secretary
Serbian Orthodox Church in the USA and Canada
+Metropolitan NICHOLAS of Amissos, Treasurer
American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese in the USA
Orthodox Church in America
Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America and Canada
Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA
+Bishop ILIA of Philomelion
Albanian Orthodox Diocese of America