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Catholic bishop washes inmates’ feet for Easter

Most Rev Vincent Long van Nguyen OFM Conv, the fourth Bishop of Parramatta, has washed the feet of inmates and staff at Parklea Correctional Centre to mark Holy Thursday as part of Easter celebrations.

Bishop Long’s gesture of respect, humility and love was as part of a Catholic Mass, and imitates Jesus Christ performing the same ritual for the twelve apostles at the Last Supper.

Bishop Long told the inmates prison ministry was close to his heart.

“The washing of the feet ritual is a powerful reminder for all of us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus – to live our lives not in rivalry or dominion, but of service, love, collaboration and partnership,” Bishop Long said.

Acting Governor Brian Gurney said he was pleased Bishop Long had again chosen to spend Holy Thursday at Parklea with some of the most marginalised members of our community.

“We are so pleased Bishop Long has again taken time out of his busy schedule to deliver a Catholic mass here at Parklea, which is an important boost for the inmates when most are unable to spend the Easter holidays with their families,” Mr Gurney said. 

“Prison is not a place most people want to find themselves, but it can be an opportunity to reflect and work on the issues that got them here in the first place.

“Providing programs and support to reduce reoffending and help inmates work through their struggles is a key priority here at Parklea and one of the ways we do that is through our chaplaincy team.

“Parklea has seven chaplains of various faiths, including from the Catholic church, who provide spiritual, emotional and practical guidance to our inmates, as well as their families and staff. 

“The chaplain’s role is not to convert people, but to listen and provide counsel when they need help, and regular church services held in our chapel is another way to bring inmates together in a positive environment.

“Having Bishop Long here is a reminder of the forgiveness, love and hope that is available to those who seek it and everyone should be treated with decency and respect.”

Parklea Catholic chaplain Richard Korkor said Bishop Long’s visit showed the inmates they are not forgotten.

“During his ministry, Pope Francis has visited people on the margins, and he has washed the feet of prisoners,” Mr Korkor said.

“I believe that Bishop Long mirrors the Holy Father’s ministry and mirrors the person of Christ to these inmates in giving a voice to the voiceless, and an opportunity to be seen and heard.

“His visit represents not just to the staff and management, but to the inmates, that they are in people’s thoughts.

Following the liturgy, Bishop Long spoke with prisoners over a cup to tea and hot cross buns.

This is the sixth time Bishop Long, as Bishop of Parramatta, has visited a prison on Holy Thursday.

Parklea Correctional Centre is operated by MTC Australia on behalf of Corrective Services NSW.