April 19, 2000
volume 11, no. 78
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Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.


    ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar ( - President Didier Ratsiraka of Madagascar has ordered the release of 3,000 prisoners following a plea made by local Catholic leaders that the Jubilee should also to be applied to prisons.

    The gesture was a response to Pope John Paul II's call in the Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente that Christians should give special attention to the situation of prison inmates. Those released include women and minors. At the central Antanimora-Tana jail in Antananarivo alone, 500 were granted amnesty.

    The release was the result of efforts by the Catholic Organization for Spiritual Assistance in Prisons, led by Trinitarian Father Angelo Buccarello appointed by the bishops' conference. The missionary himself went with Cardinal Armand Razafindratandra of Antananarivo to ask the president to grant the bishops' requests.

    "This is a wonderful result," Father Buccarello said, "but we could have obtained more. The problem is that in Madagascar two out of three prisoners are awaiting trial, some have been waiting as long as twelve years." Father Buccarello, 58, born in Italy, has worked in Madagascar for thirty years. "The bishops had asked for more in their document, but this is already a significant gesture of reconciliation for the Holy Year," he said.

    The bishops had issued a letter for the Holy Year entitled "Forgiveness and Reconciliation" calling for the release of minors, for those who have already completed half their sentence, and for men over 60 and women over 65. They asked for a reduction of life imprisonment, death sentences to be commuted to prison terms, and the reduction of sentences for pregnant women and women with young children.

    The document also denounced inhumane living conditions in overcrowded jails: 20,000 are detained in spaces for half the number. "Food is lacking in both quality and quantity and prison staffs have little or no training," the bishops said.

    The bishops' conference also said prison inmates live in situations of "degrading promiscuity": First offenders are detained with recidivists, minors with adults, making the prisons into a "novitiate for violence and recidivists." The bishops also denounced cases of death due to starvation of persons "considered innocent" and violence on the part of prison police: "Guards treat prisoners like wild beasts."

    The bishops also addressed prisoners in their letter: "We want to open for you the door of charity and hope and those among you who will be released should prepare for the event. Be grateful for the gesture, show yourselves worthy. May this forgiveness be a source of ongoing strength to guide you in a new life."


April 19, 2000
volume 11, no. 78

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