Ecumenical visit highlights value of prison chaplaincy

Archbishop Leo Cushley joined the Rt Rev Sally Foster-Fulton at Scotland's facility for women in custody on Friday.

The visit to HMP & YOI Stirling gave the church leaders the opportunity to see the prison chaplaincy service, which offers spiritual and pastoral support to those in custody of all faiths and none.

Rev Foster-Fulton, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, said: “Church of Scotland representatives serve as chaplains in prisons across the country, providing pastoral and spiritual care for the whole of the prison population.

"Jesus said ‘I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me'.

“Chaplains form a strong link between the communities inside and outside, supporting families and caring for those most in need, helping them to discover purpose and meaning and develop the resources to live a fulfilled life.”

Archbishop Cushley said: “Chaplains play an important role in prisons across Scotland in helping with the wellbeing and spiritual direction of prisoners.

“Sally and I were keen to visit HMI & YOI Stirling and we are impressed with the facilities provided and the steps taken to ensure the care of women in custody.”

'Happier futures'

Paula Arnold, Governor of HMP & YOI Stirling, said: “We value our partnerships with the Church of Scotland and the Catholic Church in Scotland, and the important role that chaplains play in supporting people on their personal journey in custody.

“Relationships, including those based on religion and faith, are key to supporting the wellbeing of our women and helping them towards happier and healthier futures.”

In 2022, the Church of Scotland and the Catholic Church in Scotland formally signed an historic declaration of friendship known as the St Margaret Declaration.

It describes the Churches' shared beliefs, ‘rooted in the Apostles, Christ's first disciples,' and acknowledges a common heritage as Christians in Scotland.

Churches around the world are currently marking the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity  an event that takes place over eight days between the feasts of St Peter and St Paul.

Prisoners' Week: remembering those behind bars

Archbishop Leo Cushley has thanked Catholics in the Archdiocese who visit prisons - and has challenged more parishioners to join them.

He chatted with prisoners and staff at HMP Edinburgh yesterday (Wednesday) as part of Prisoners' Week.

He said: "This year's theme is 'Out of Sight, Out of Mind' and it's good to know that people across the Archdiocese do remember those who are locked up.

"They do this very quietly, discreetly and in a Christian fashion. I think during Prisoners' Week it's worth highlighting this important voluntary work so that more people know about it and contribute."

He thanked Prison Governor David Abernethy, who took him around the site, and the ecumenical chaplaincy team, including Father Vasyl Kren (main pic, second from left), for their work in ministering to people of all faiths and none.

Mass behind bars

Archbishop Cushley was joined by two members of a prison visiting group from St Mary's Cathedral, John Macfarlane and James Walker.

A group from the Cathedral visit HMP Edinburgh (also known as Saughton Prison) on the first Saturday of each month.

They meet up with Father Kren each month to attend a Mass and two communion services, spending up to three hours inside the building.

Mr Macfarlane (main pic, right) said: "The small group of us who visit the prison each month go there to attend Mass with some of the prisoners.

"I think it's an important connection - both for us who visit, and for the prisoners themselves. We get the opportunity to chat very briefly with them after each Mass, which I think is also very important in maintaining the link with the Church outside."

Fr Kren said: "I's great to have parishioners joining us. We had a positive ecumenical meeting with Archbishop Cushley at the prison, discussing a range of issues. We appreciate the visit and the encouragement it gave the chaplaincy team here."

A spokesperson for Prisoners' Week said: "This year's theme challenges us to get to know more about the lives of people in prison and asking if we care."

If you would like to join St Mary's Cathedral prison visiting group email