“We are perceived as a pastime for the prisoners” – what do the priests behind bars

Why did the priest go to prison if he should intercede for the prisoners, what miracles were in prison in the 90-ies and as the clergy gradually became the “people administration” “Pravmir” begins a series of articles about pachlavan the traditional mission of the Orthodox Church. Today the relations of Church and the penitentiary system.

Photo: eparchia.kharkov.ua

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In pre-revolutionary Russia, the temples were in every prison and every prison. The need for this did not cause any doubts: both prisoners and guard them the majority were Orthodox and were in need of spiritual nourishment.

After the revolution this tradition was broken. The Soviet state made the Church their enemy, the priests go to prison as prisoners, and Church life of the prisoners was a mystery.

Archpriest Gleb Kaleda

In prisons and camps there were many prisoners, priests, monks and Church well-prepared laity. In particular, it is known that when you ceased to work built in the XVIII century the Church, in the cells in Butyrka prison in secret were committed in the 20-ies of the divine Liturgy, and the prisoners in their cells the communion of the Body and Blood of Christ. In those years, sometimes in the chambers was sitting up to 5 bishops, not counting the priests. In the famous Slon (Solovetsky special purpose camp) at the end of 20 years – 18 bishops, hundreds of priests, etc. have developed a system of storage of spare the Holy Gifts, – describes the situation in post-revolutionary prisons Archpriest Gleb Kaleda. He became one of the first modern priests, who took upon himself to prison Ministry.

The Church returned to a Russian prison before the fall of the Soviet regime. In 1989, priest Theodore Sokolov for the first time in the USSR performed the rites for prisoners Krasnopresnensky transit prison (now called the Moscow SIZO No. 3) with the permission of its leadership. In 1990, in the places of detention visited for the first time the future Patriarch Alexy II. After two years in the colony №5 in metallostroe opened the Church.

Prison soon temples began to appear throughout Russia.

Photo: patriarchia.ru

Our modern prisons and a labor camp is a huge parishes in need of the Word of God and spiritual nourishment, perhaps more than the usual parishes in the world. In many prisons and camps there were temples created in large measure by labour and the means of the prisoners and on their own initiative or the support wrote about the mission of the Church in the new Russia father Gleb Kaleda, the time already served in the Church of the Intercession of the blessed virgin Mary in Butyrka prison.

In detention in Russia in early 90-ies there were more than 700 thousand people. The Church looked at them as a potential flock of people in need of spiritual guidance and protection. A couple of years ‘ temples appeared all over Russia. In jail, where space for building was not to create a “home” Church.

They were just like a continuation of the old, the ascetic traditions of the times of persecution of Christians in the Soviet Union, when the prisoners gave themselves the opportunity to pray while behind bars. On this example “Pravmiru” said father Alex Kruglik, in 90-e years, helping in the nourishment of the Butyrki prisoners.

Archpriest Alexei Kruglik

I remember at some point in one of the chambers, which was just in terrible condition without basic repairs, came off a large piece of plaster. And under it was opened written with charcoal on the wall beautiful image of the Mother of God. Apparently, as later told to us experts, the painting was made in the thirties and later chinked with plaster. Her discovery then became present in the cell people is a revelation, came as a response to their requests and pleas. It seems to me, after the case of wanting to communicate with the priest, he recalls.

In the new Russia of the need to keep the faith in secret was no more.

Two trucks “Bush legs” and soup for the prisoners

Archpriest Alexander Ilyashenko in an interview with “Provera” recalled one of the stories about father Gleb Khaled, which he learned during his own prison Ministry from the chief of the Tver prison.

Archpriest Alexander Ilyashenko

– It was a hungry 90-e years. The increase in crime is incredible. The prisons are overcrowded. Funding is minimized. To feed people in prisons, almost nothing. Father Gleb comes in and tells the chief of, say, Easter soon, and have concluded to arrange the Passover feast. Can you imagine? He offered to feed something tasty people whom the administration is forced to contain starvation. The chief is responsible to the father to Gleb, it is not enough that he has standards, and no money at all. To get money for extra food just nowhere. This chief later recalled that father Gleb looked at him so that to deny it was impossible. Then the chief called up a former classmate, at that time untwist the businessman, and asked to help feed a few thousand prisoners. “Yes, why do you come to the Canaries to take,” said a friend. “No. Don’t need KANAR. Let’s figure out how to feed,” he replied.

Businessman found two trucks “Bush legs” (chicken legs imported from the United States on a trade agreement between Gorbachev and Bush senior – “Pravmir”). At Easter, prisoners received a serving of soup with a piece of chicken. Father Alexander Ilyashenko compared what did the priest, the jailer and entrepreneur, with a gospel miracle.

– No father Gleb or prison warden, or a businessman didn’t have to get the chicken, arrange the Easter holiday for prisoners. In these lean years, many have need a, maybe then crime would get up from a hard life. And in the years to feed a few thousand people – it was like the gospel story to come to life, which the Lord fed the people with five loaves and two fishes. The Lord said “you will do things like this,” and the prison priest did it, said father Alexander.

Archpriest Gleb Kaleda prisoners

“Normally you have to practice in the duty room”

Although the government at that time saw in the Church primarily a humanitarian organization that facilitates him the fulfillment of its social obligations, the Church itself looked at their mission differently.

– Our prisons, our camps, our prisoners always remain with us as our bleeding and suppurating wounds. And for us to treat them – wrote father Gleb Kaleda in his “Notes”.

They were designed to give answers to simple questions. How to carry God’s word to the criminals who have their own concepts and norms of life? How not to be afraid, coming to the chamber to recidivists? How to take care of those who often holds in prison more time than the prisoners – their guards?

One of the apparent contradictions facing any prison chaplain is a recognition of the prisoner in the confessional and the desire of the prison administration to know that. Father Gleb suggested a way, which is used by the prison priests are still, after a quarter-century after his death.

– Usually have to practice in the investigators ‘ offices, in the duty room. Me the prison authorities assured that in those classrooms where the confessional, listening devices there. I announced to the prisoners and suggested that if someone does not believe, can write their sins and a piece of paper to show me after the confession, we have this entry then destroy. No police consequences no confession had wrote Gleb Kaleda.

Photo: Alexander Osokin, photosight.ru

As the priest turned into a “human administration”

However, the relationship of the prison congregation with the priests was not at all lofty and serene. While many prisoners indeed have found your way to God, for most of them the work of the Church – only entertainment or relief in a dull and monotonous life behind bars.

Natalya Vysotskaya

– I know that most of those who communicate with us in prison, do it from curiosity or boredom, – said in 2007 in an interview with an Orthodox magazine “Foma” Natalya Vysotskaya, founder and Director of the company “Faith. Hope. Love” working in Christian Ministry in prisons.

Prisoners, people are resourceful and cunning, quickly saw in the parish priests a chance to cheat the system. Under the guise of Church leaders and representatives of various faiths in the prison began to penetrate their accomplices. So prisoners have the opportunity to coordinate with their accomplices on the outside. It was necessary to streamline the work of the Church in prison.

So the cooperation of the Church and penitentiary institutions became more formal. In regional dioceses on the model of Patriarchy appeared the Department for prison Ministry, and the administration of the Federal service of execution of punishments (FSIN) – associate of believers. Took them, as a rule, Orthodox priests. Representatives of the Church joined the public monitoring Commission – civil society bodies designed to monitor the conditions of detention and their rights.

On the one hand, the formalization was demanding of time. On the other – this process was put priests in a clearly dependent position from the heads of detention center and colonies. In the eyes of the prisoners themselves, almost any priest becomes a “person of authority”, and to find common language with them was more difficult.

Archpriest Andrew Kordochkin

– I remember an interview with one Russian prison chaplain, who said that in a Russian prison it is very important that prisoners are never thought of as human bosses, and the bosses – as human prisoners. In that there is a judgment, but it is possible to a certain limit, – told in interview “Pravmiru” Archpriest Andrei Kordochkin, rector of the Church of St Mary Magdalene in Madrid, taking care of the Orthodox prisoners in Spanish prisons.

Finally, the process of formalization of relations between the Church and the penitentiary system ended in 10th years of XXI century. In 2013, the Holy Synod adopted a document entitled “the Mission of prison Ministry in the Russian Orthodox Church and the penitentiary institutions”.

The new rules give new opportunities to the Church and the state. But even there, there are these possibilities realized in different ways.

Photo: patriarchia.ru

The most active just removed, replace it more convenient

Pechalova is a custom of spiritual persons to ask public officials about the mercy to the convicts, care about those people caught in limbo. Many priests, among them many years the rector of the Church in Butyrskaya Konstantin Kobelev – saw the mission of the Church in the prison of the XXI century in the continuation of this tradition.

Father Konstantin Kobelev

– They want that more people listen to the priests. We often write petitions for the parole of those guys who help at the temple. We worked with them a year or more and sometimes can vouch for the person. According to the law, after people have served a half term, with good behavior he could be released early. And the court some of such requests are satisfied, while others are not. The courts, whether that can release only a certain percentage? You would think that after two or three minutes (I don’t know what they are doing with them), for half an hour, they will better understand a person than we are for the year. I don’t know what their metrics are and why they are introduced. This often happens: you think how to write to them to influence – but they’re not the words of the priest, he said in an interview, “Pravmiru” in 2012.

Until recently, father Konstantin Kobelev held the position of assistant to the chief of UFSIN of Moscow for the organization of work with believers. But now he was replaced in this post another person.

The Church has long been on lockdown, and most active just from being suspended, in lieu of more convenient. The prison Department has long been in no way involved. There is no way to interact [with FPS] and bacalbasa – explained in comments “Pravmiru” Natalia Kuznetsova, has long worked in the Synodal Department for Church charity and social service of Russian Orthodox Church.

According to her, in recent years, has begun the process of leaching of the active priests from the process of dealing with prisoners. Emasculated even the training of such specialists. If a few years ago priests complained of lengthy seminars where the employees of the penitentiary system talked about the work with a complex “contingent”, but now such classes ceased to be held.

Temples, which 20-30 years ago was created with the prisons at the behest of the heart, in many places become a liability.

– We have almost all prisons, detention centers and colonies have temples, but if you ask employees, in honor of whom this temple, you can probably guess how many of them will say something. If you ask, does the father answer – it happens. “And when?” “Well, here recently.” – “On Easter?” – “Well, yeah, Easter.” Temples in most prisons and colonies to no attributed. The money they forcibly collected from relatives of prisoners. And those and others because of extortion starting all this hate, – said Natalia Kuznetsova.

Even in 2015, the head of the Department for prison Ministry of the St. Petersburg diocese, Archpriest Oleg buffoon in an interview with local portal Online812 recognized that priests and employees of the penitentiary system it is difficult to find a common language.

– Members of the administration look at the priests with a sense of leniency, and misunderstanding. Like they only work torn off! We are perceived as a kind of entertainment for the prisoners. The whole situation itself is heavy. But the visiting priests of places of deprivation of liberty is very important. It also drains the atmosphere.

Natalia Kuznetsova claims that even the existence of permissions from higher authorities does not guarantee to the priests the ability to communicate with the congregation behind bars.

Photo: Vladimir Eshtokin / foma.ru

Priests can “- marinated”, even with all the permissions at the door for a few hours, are not allowed neither in the colony nor in jail or in the hospital. We know of several cases where not allowed in the intensive care unit. It all depends on what the particular person on the spot, – she complained.

But despite that, the Church continued to see sense and the need to work with prisoners.

– The presence of a priest in prison, of course, important. But much more important is that in prison, he makes a sacrament. The grace of God touches hearts sometimes brutal, evil, twisted and embittered people. But in prison there is a deep change in the human and often – real repentance – I am sure father Alexander Ilyashenko.

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