WASHINGTON (CNS) – Sister Simone Campbell, a longtime advocate for economic justice and health care policy, and late labor leader Richard Trumka received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in a White House ceremony. President Joe Biden presented the award to 15 others as well July 7. “For so many people and for the nation, Sister Simone Campbell is a gift from God. For the past 50 years she has embodied the belief in our church that faith without works is dead,” Biden said of the woman religious whose career has focused on advocating for poor and voiceless people. Sister Campbell, a California native and a member of the Sisters of Social Service, stepped down as executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobbying organization, in March 2021 after serving for 17 years. Biden particularly noted her role in passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, a complex law which expanded access to health care for millions of people. He also cited a series of annual “Nuns on the Bus” nationwide tours that Sister Campbell led touting health care as a right and that federal budgets were moral documents that must reflect the priorities of serving poor and marginalized people.
“Compassionate and brave, humble and strong, today Sister Simone remains a beacon of light. She’s the embodiment of a covenant of trust, hope and progress of a nation,” Biden said. Trumka was president of the AFL-CIO from 2009 until his death in August 2021. The faith of Trumka, a Catholic born to a Polish father and an Italian mother, helped shape a lifelong career in the labor movement.

CHICAGO (CNS) – Saying he watched “in horror” news reports in the aftermath of a mass shooting during a suburban Fourth of July parade, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago offered prayers for the victims. Authorities said seven people died – five on the parade route and two later in the hospital – and 30 others were injured when a gunman opened fired on people lining the parade route. “What should have been a peaceful celebration of our nation’s founding ended in unspeakable tragedy,” Cardinal Cupich said in a

A tricycle is seen near the scene of a mass shooting in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, Ill., July 4, 2022. (CNS photo/Max Herman, Reuters)

statement released hours after the tragedy by the archdiocese of Chicago. Pointing to the victims, who authorities said ranged in age from 8 to 85, Cardinal Cupich said, “Weapons designed to rapidly destroy human bodies have no place in civil society.” Law enforcement authorities charged Robert E. Crimo III, 21, of suburban Chicago with seven counts of murder after the shooting in Highland Park in Chicago’s affluent North Shore. Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart said the suspect would receive a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole if convicted of the charges. He also said other charges were pending. The man was apprehended without incident on a busy highway in a nearby suburb after briefly fleeing officers. Highland Park police said witnesses reported seeing a man with a long gun indiscriminately firing dozens of rounds from a rooftop at parade spectators, sending marchers and viewers scurrying for cover.

WASHINGTON (CNS) – In a 6-3 vote June 27, the Supreme Court ruled that a former high school football coach had the right to pray on the football field after games because his prayers were private speech and did not represent the public school’s endorsement of religion. “The Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike,” said the court’s majority opinion, written by Justice Neil Gorsuch. Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented. The court’s majority opinion also emphasized that “respect for religious expressions is indispensable to life in a free and diverse Republic – whether those expressions take place in a sanctuary or on a field.” It said the case focused on a government entity seeking to “punish an individual for engaging in a brief, quiet, personal religious observance doubly protected by the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment” and that the “Constitution neither mandates nor tolerates that kind of discrimination.” Joseph Kennedy, former assistant coach at Bremerton High School, outside of Seattle, said his postgame prayers on the field cost him his job. The coach had been told by school district officials to stop these prayers on the 50-yard line, and he refused. When his contract was not renewed, he sued the school for violating his First Amendment rights.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis said the goals he has achieved in more than nine years as pope were simply the fruit of the ideas discussed by the College of Cardinals prior to his election. In an interview with Argentine news agency Telam published July 1, the pope said that objectives, such as the reform of the Roman Curia, were “neither my invention nor a dream I had after a night of indigestion. I gathered everything that we, the cardinals, had said at the pre-conclave meetings, the things we believed the new pope should do. Then, we spoke of the things that needed to be changed, the issues that needed to be tackled,” he said. “I carried out the things that were asked back then. I do not think there was anything original of mine. I set in motion what we all had requested,” he added. The apostolic constitution reforming the Roman Curia, titled “Praedicate Evangelium” (“Preach the Gospel”) went into effect June 5. In the document, the pope said the purpose of the constitution was to “better harmonize the present exercise of the Curia’s service with the path of evangelization that the church, especially in this season, is living.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Before celebrating the Holy Year 2025, Pope Francis is asking Catholics around the world to dedicate time in 2023 to studying the documents of the Second Vatican Council. Presenting the official logo for the Holy Year June 28, Archbishop Rino Fisichella also announced the pope’s plan for helping Catholics prepare for the celebration: focusing on the four constitutions issued by Vatican II in 2023; and focusing on prayer in 2024. The four Vatican II constitutions are: Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (“Sacrosanctum Concilium”); Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (“Lumen Gentium”); Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (“Dei Verbum”); and Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (“Gaudium et Spes”). Archbishop Fisichella, whom the pope appointed to coordinate planning the Holy Year, said, “A series of user-friendly resources, written in appealing language, are being produced to arouse curiosity in those who have no memory” of the council, which was held 1962-65. Details about the 2024 year of prayer and spiritual preparation for the jubilee are still being worked out, the archbishop said. The Vatican already had announced that Pope Francis chose “Pilgrims of Hope” as the theme for the Holy Year.

HONG KONG (CNS) – The Chinese Communist Party is seeking to expand its apparatus to monitor and curb religious activities in cyberspace through training and deploying hundreds of “auditors” across the country, triggering concerns from rights groups. Under the guidance of the Communist Party, the Ethnic and Religious Commission of Guangdong Province in southern China held a test for the first group of auditors for the state-run Internet Religious Information Services in early June, the China Christian Daily reported. The Internet Religious Information Services agency was formed in March after China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs announced the “Administrative Measures for Internet Religious Information Services” late last year. The measures have been formulated by several state agencies in line with existing legislation in China such as the “Cybersecurity Law of the People’s Republic of China,” “Administrative Measures for Internet Information Services,” and the revised “Regulations on Religious Affairs.”