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Archive of July 21, 2012

Home is where the box is

Camden, N.J., Jul 21, 2012 (CNA) - Sisters Brianna and Danielle Breen look out of the roof of the cardboard dwelling where they spent the night at St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Sicklerville, on Saturday, March 31.

  The “Cardboard City” event, which included participants from St. Charles and Sts. Peter and Paul, Turnersville, was designed to teach young people about the plight of the homeless.   Last weekend, youth from two parishes came together to build their own city.   A city of cardboard, that is.   Organized to help youth understand the plight of the homeless, Cardboard City involved 31 junior youth group members from sixth-eighth grade sleeping in cardboard boxes, making sandwiches for the homeless, and hearing a talk from Larry DiPaul, director of Life and Justice for the Diocese of Camden.   The event was held at St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Sicklerville, and included youth group participants from Sts. Peter and Paul, Turnersville.   The weekend started on Friday with youth experiencing the Stations of the Cross, and watching the movie “Conversations with God,” and ended with them building their new homes in Sienna Hall (it was too wet and cold for the youth to sleep outside), using cardboard boxes they brought, and packing tape. As well, all electronic devices on them (iPods, smartphones) were confiscated from them   The next morning, after a meager breakfast of toast and juice, the youth made bagged lunches with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and snacks to be delivered to a soup kitchen in Camden.   In his talk, Larry DiPaul discussed his friendship with Steven, a homeless man in Camden.   After a car accident left him unemployed, and without family to support him, Steven ended up homeless under the Ben Franklin Bridge, living in a cardboard box, until his death.   In an activity planned to shake youth out of their comfort zone, a local police officer arrived and “evicted” them from their homes in Sienna Hall, declaring that they were trespassing on private property.   The youth were thus forced to move across the parish parking lot, to Borromeo Hall, and only able to take half of their cardboard dwellings.   On Saturday night, the youth ate beef vegetable or chicken noodle soup out of soup cans, and said a rosary in front of a campfire. The next day, after breakfast and Mass, the teens left Cardboard City and returned to their own neighborhoods.   The weekend was designed to help the youth “understand what happens to (the homeless) in real life, and have compassion for them,” said Christine Burnite, junior youth group leader.   “The whole weekend humbled the kids,” she said.   Posted with permission from the Catholic Star Harold. Official newspaper for the diocese of Camden, New Jersey. 

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Catholic chaplain helps families and survivors after Aurora shootings

Englewood, Colo., Jul 21, 2012 (CNA) - At Swedish Medical Center, where 23 victims of a deadly movie theater attack were brought in the early hours of July 20, lay Catholic chaplain Marcus Ebenhoe is helping family, friends, and survivors.

“A lot of it's just helping people make meaning of what's happening,” the lay chaplain told CNA on Friday afternoon. “I had someone who said: 'The person to my left and the person to my right both got shot, but I didn't. Why am I here? What purpose do I have in my life?'”

Ebenhoe is trying to help Catholics, and members of other faiths, make sense of Colorado's worst mass murder in over a decade, which took place during a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” at the Century Movie Theater in Aurora on July 20.

Former medical student James Holmes, 24, is believed to have entered the theater through a rigged exit door, wearing body armor and a gas mask. Authorities say he detonated a gas canister and opened fire on the crowd, killing 12 people and wounding 59 before surrendering to police in the parking lot.

Many of the victims were brought to Swedish Medical Center in Englewood. Ebenhoe could not provide details, but confirmed that he had been counseling individuals who were directly affected, “as they are processing what has happened and what they have been through over the last 14 to 15 hours.”

The Catholic chaplain is committed to “journeying with them through this scary and challenging time,”  whether by prayer, guidance, “or just providing an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on.”

“Obviously, an event like this brings up many questions, and lots of fear and anxiety,” he told CNA. Some wonder about God's purpose in permitting such acts of evil, while others wonder, “Why me?” – or even “Why not me?”

Ebenhoe tries to help them “get to the emotion behind the questions that they're asking,” so that they can begin finding consolation and meaning in the midst of suffering.

Less than a day after the shootings, however, “a lot of people are still in shock.” This means there are limits as to how much discussion is possible “without re-traumatizing people.”

Some of the survivors “go from shock to anger.” Others are calm and “just trying to process what's happening” on a factual level, “but at the same time, physically, they're shaking.”

Ebenhoe's approach to tragedy is formed by his faith in Christ's resurrection and victory over death. But humanity must pass through death in order to share in Jesus' triumph, a paradox that has led theologians to describe the resurrection as a reality that is both “now” and “not yet” present.

“We're living in the time of the resurrection – but we're also in that 'not yet' time,” waiting for “the fulness of the kingdom,” the chaplain observed.

As Aurora residents confront the “brokenness of this human world,” they can be assured of God's close identification with their suffering. God is “with us throughout this,” and humanity has “a savior who suffered also,” Ebenhoe recalled.

Through prayer, in particular, God gives victims of evil the strength to persevere in hope.
 
“I notice people praying the Rosary,” Ebenhoe said. “They say: 'I haven't prayed the Rosary in 20 years, but right now this is what I'm grounded in, and this is what I need to help me through this at this moment.'”

While he would “never wish suffering upon anyone,” the lay chaplain has also seen “a lot of transformation occur in people when they are in those moments of suffering.”

These “moments of despair,” he said, can lead to “a new experience and appreciation of God.”

“Sometimes it is in people's suffering that they are able to get to the core of themselves, and the core of the Spirit of God,” Ebenhoe noted.

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US bishops' relief agency defends alliance with aid organization

Washington D.C., Jul 21, 2012 (CNA) - Catholic Relief Services, the official overseas relief agency for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, says that it worked with a leading Catholic bioethics group in conducting careful reviews to ensure that its funding decisions were in alignment with Church teaching.

“Catholic Relief Services, in communion with the Church, strictly upholds Catholic moral teaching,” the organization said.

“All of the CRS programs and all of the funds used by CRS are entirely consistent with Church teaching.”

In a statement provided to CNA, the group responded to recent concerns raised about its funding of CARE, an international humanitarian organization that provides relief to the needy in developing nations but also offers contraception and early abortion-inducing drugs.

Catholic Relief Services said that it has “always has taken very seriously decisions we make about the groups with which we collaborate or form partnerships to ensure that we are not violating the Church teachings.”

The agency stressed that it promotes “abstinence and Natural Family Planning as embraced by the Church” and reiterated that it does not “fund, support or participate in any programming or advocacy that is not in line with Church teaching, including artificial birth control.”

The organization said that concerns over CARE had previously been raised. In response, it teamed with Dr. John Haas of the National Catholic Bioethics Center to undertake “a thorough review” of all its partnerships.

The resulting report determined that the activities being reviewed did not “suggest support of or involvement in immoral activities” and that there was “no material cooperation with evil.”

In addition, it found that the funding from Catholic Relief Services was not “fungible,” meaning that there was “little to no risk” of the grant money being used for purposes beyond those listed in the grant request or freeing up money for immoral purposes within the receiving organizations.

The National Catholic Bioethics Center did, however, determine that “there could be a risk of controversy or scandal over such partnerships if people become confused and wrongly assume that CRS was endorsing a partner’s position on other issues.”

To prevent such a misunderstanding, Catholic Relief Services worked with the bioethics groups and the bishops to make their adherence to Church teaching clear through their mission statement and communications.

“Faithfulness to Church teaching always has been and always will be our policy,” the group emphasized.

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Elite Peruvian university stripped of Catholic credentials

Vatican City, Jul 21, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican has announced it is stripping the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru of its Catholic identity after the elite university repeatedly refused to comply with the Church’s requirements for colleges.

“The Holy See, with Decree of His Eminence the Secretary of State, under a specific Pontifical mandate, has decided to remove from the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru the right to use in its name the titles “Pontifical” and “Catholic” in accordance with canon law,” reads a Vatican statement issued in Spanish and Italian on July 21.

Today’s move follows months of discussions between both sides, which began after a 2011 Vatican inspection of the university carried out by Cardinal Peter Erdo of Budapest. He traveled to Peru, where he found the Lima-based institution at odds with the Catholic Church in several significant areas of policy.

Today’s statement explains that the university’s management has, in fact, continually refused to comply with the Church’s guidelines over the past 22 years, despite numerous requests to do so by the Vatican.

It also reveals that the Peruvian university’s management sent two letters in recent months to the Vatican’s Secretary, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, re-confirming their “inability to implement the requirements” of changing their statutes.

The statement notes that the university has also been defying a ruling by the Peruvian civil courts to give the Archdiocese of Lima a seat on its board of directors.

The guidelines on what is expected of an authentically Catholic university were laid out in the papal document “Ex Corde Ecclesiae,” which was promulgated in 1990 by Pope John Paul II.

The Pontifical University of Peru was founded in 1917 and was awarded its pontifical status by Pope Pius XII in 1942. It currently has over 16,000 undergraduate students and is regarded as one of the top universities in Peru.

Its alumni include President Ollanta Humala of Peru, as well as his immediate predecessor, Alan García, and the former Secretary General of the United Nations, Javier Pérez de Cuéllar. In 1986 the university gave an honorary doctorate to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.

The July 21 Vatican statement concluded with the promise that “the Holy See will continue to monitor the situation of the University” in the hope that the academic authorities will reconsider their position “in the near future.”

“The renewal requested by the Holy See will make the University more capable of responding to the task of bringing the message of Christ to man, society and culture, according to the mission of the Church in the world.”

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