«I was in prison and you visited me. …I tell you whenever
you did this for one of the least important of these brothers
and sisters of mine, you did it for me!» — Matthew 25.36, 40

St. Ephrem of Syrina’s Centre for Spiritual Support
of the Orthodox Communities in Confinement

St Ephrem’s Centre was established in 2000 by the Missionary Faculty at the Orthodox Theological University of Saint Tikhon the Confessor (Moscow). Since then, it has acquired considerable experience in its missionary work with the Orthodox communities in Russian prisons.

The Centre’s main mission is its correspondence with Orthodox prisoners all over Russia. Russian Orthodox communities in confinement are supervised in their spiritual life by local diocese’s authorities. Russian Orthodox priests of each diocese visit the prisons of their area administering Sacraments, counselling inmates and distributing religious literature. St Ephrem’s Centre provides support and information to those who wish to take part in this important area of the Church’s social work. The Centre’s activities are oriented towards the following principles laid out in The Social Concepts of the Russian Orthodox Church:

In her ministry in penitentiaries, the Church should arrange churches and prayer rooms in them, administer Sacraments and celebrate, hold pastoral talks with inmates and distribute religious literature. Especially important is the personal contact with inmates including visiting them in cells. Every encouragement should be given to correspondence with convicts and collection and distribution of clothes, medicines and other necessities. These efforts should be aimed not only to relieve the heavy lot of prisoners, but also to help in the moral healing of their crippled souls. Their pain is the pain of the whole Mother Church who rejoices with heavenly joy when even ‘one sinner repentieth’ (Lk. 15:10). The revival of the care for prisoners has become an important field of pastoral and missionary work, which needs to be supported and developed. (http://www.mospat.ru/text/e_conception/id/4050.html)

Here is the description of how the Centre works by one of its members:

Though our centre is an official organization, there is no official procedure for becoming its member. Those who want to help the Centre in its correspondence with prisoners can take two or three letters out of those dozens which we receive every week and start a correspondence with their new brothers and sisters in Christ. We reply to personal letters, as well as the letters coming from the communities, trying to encourage our correspondents by reminding them about God and His love. We write to our pen-friends about the Church’s festive days and answer their questions on Christian traditions. Many prayer rooms in Russian prisons are still short of Christian literature, so we try to supply the Orthodox communities in confinement with the books they need. Some of our members help to collect necessary books by telling about our Centre at their local churches and asking people to donate the books or money to purchase them. Our Centre also sends prisoners video and audio materials, such as films on the history of the Church and recordings of the Church music.

If you wish to help St. Ephrem’s Centre in any way or find out more about its activities, please contact the Head of the Centre, Natalia Vladimirovna Ponomariova:
Email: nponom@gmail.com;
Telephone (in Russia): +7 (916) 932-83-64

The Centre’s address is:
Tsentr Podderzhki Pravoslavnih Obshin v Zakluchenii, PSTBI, Novokuznetskaya Str. 23 B, Moscow 115184, Russia
E-mail: info@4prison.ru

The Centre’s Bank Details:
ИНН 7705010635
р/с 40703810038310100668 в Люблинском ОСБ 7977
Банк: Сбербанк России г.Москва
К/сч. 30101810400000000225

Other links:
The official server of the Moscow Patriarchate (English version): http://www.mospat.ru/e_startpage/index.html;
The official website of the Orthodox University of Saint Tikhon (Russian version): http://pstbi.ru;
The life of Saint Tikhon the Confessor, Patriarch of Moscow (English version):