New York, May 9, 2012
To all of the Clergy and the Laity of the Holy Orthodox Churches in North America
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Christ is Risen!
We, the Hierarchs of the Assembly of Bishops, are by the grace of God blessed to designate the Sixth Sunday of Pascha, which this year falls on May 20, as Prison Ministry Awareness Sunday. We embrace the diakonia of prison ministry in keeping with the example of our Risen Lord Jesus Christ, Who in His earthly ministry preached His message of love and forgiveness to all sinners, even consorting with publicans and harlots, and saying that when we visit people who are in prison, we are visiting Him (Matthew 25:36).
As we prepare to partake of Christ’s Holy Body and Precious Blood at each Divine Liturgy, we pray a prayer in which we identify ourselves, as did the Holy Apostle Paul, as chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). Many of those in prison have come to the same realization, and see themselves as the worst of sinners. The ministry of OCPM strives to guide them to the way of true life found in the Church, and to introduce them to the reality that, while they are indeed sinners, they can be set free from bondage to sin and death through the saving work of Jesus Christ. In so doing, we not only help these men and women who are exiled from the citizenship of this world to become better members of society, we also give them the opportunity to become citizens of heaven, opening to them the pathway to repentance and abundant life in Christ.
The Assembly of Bishops encourages the faithful to learn about prison ministry, to become involved in prison ministry, and to encourage their brothers and sisters in Christ who bring the Gospel of hope and salvation to the incarcerated.
Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry (OCPM) is the official prison ministry of the Assembly of Bishops. We ask all of our parishes to support OCPM, both financially and in other ways, as it carries out the work of the Church by visiting Christ in prison.
With paternal blessings and love in the Risen Christ,
The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America