Divo (Agenzia Fides) - Every year the Catholic Church of Ivory Coast celebrates the Day of the Prisoners on the Feast of Divine Mercy. This goes back to an initiative of the Episcopal Commission for Justice, Peace and the Environment and the Office for Prison Chaplaincy.
The central celebration took place last Sunday, April 11th, as part of a service chaired by Archbishop Joseph Yapo of Gagnoa in the parish of Saints Peter and Paul of Divo in the Archdiocese of Gagnoa.
However, on behalf of Mgr. Bruno Essoh Yedo, Bishop of Bondoukou, who heads the Justice and Peace Commission as President, Fr. Charles Olidjo Siwa, General Secretary of the Commission and Chaplain for Pastoral Care in Prisons, expressed the recognition of the Church for the efforts made towards the detainees, but also expressed concern about the overcrowding in places of detention. "The Church encourages the authorities to pay special attention to detention centers in view of the largely worrying overcrowding that is prevailing".
"The Abidjan Pre-trial and Correctional Custody Center, which has an actual capacity of 2,000 inmates, now houses more than 7,000 inmates, and this seriously undermines the dignity of the human person, which must be respected at all times and at every opportunity", reads the message for the National Day of Prisoners.
"The Church asks the authorities for an act of clemency and mercy towards people who are in pre-trial detention and who can benefit from presidential pardon".
The Church notes in its message that "almost all of our pre-trial and correctional detention facilities lack a structure for vocational training and professional development that could help the inmates with social reintegration after their release".
At the end of the Eucharist, a delegation led by Fr. Siwa visited the prisoners in Divo to express the closeness of the Catholic Church. The representatives of the Catholic Church distributed food and hygiene items to the prisoners. This solidarity action is carried out in all 34 prisons in Ivory Coast on the occasion of Prisoners' Day.
A food collection campaign has also been announced for the pastoral year 2020-2021, with the aim of helping to overcome the food shortage in the country's prisons. (S.S.) (Agenzia Fides, 15/4/2021)