By Melissa Harris-Perry, MSNBC

Dear cardinals,

It’s me, Melissa.

When I first began my seminary studies at Chicago’s Catholic Theological Union, I was taught by a priest from West Africa, and sat in class alongside a nun from Iraq, brothers from a fraternal order in South America, and Irish American laywomen from the Northside of Chicago. And I began to appreciate the global reach and inclusiveness of the Church.

Despite our differences, we shared a genuine engagement with Catholicism–not only as a faith, but also as an agent for social change. As you know, Catholicism’s reach extends beyond those of you who hold the reigns of power in Vatican City, and even beyond the Church’s global body of 1.2 billion believers.

Melissa Harris-Perry

Melissa Harris-Perry

As one of the world’s most enduring and influential institutions, the Catholic Church also encompasses all of those around the world who don’t identify with the Catholic faith, but have benefitted from the work of the church and the organizations it has created.

At its best the church has been an advocate for human rights and the dignity of the most marginalized of people–feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, and providing care for the sick and disabled. Here in the United States, the Catholic Church is the largest non-governmental provider of health care, human services, and education. For low-income families and students of color, Catholic schools have long been the only alternative for an affordable, quality education.

But cardinals, even as the church has been a channel for good, it is has also has been conduit for injustice around the world. Read the full letter and watch video at

By Harvey Morris, New York Times

LONDON — As the Catholic Church’s cardinal electors gather at the Vatican to choose a new pope, Muslim leaders are urging a revival of the often troubled dialogue between the two faiths.

During the papacy of Benedict XVI, relations between the world’s two largest religions were overshadowed by remarks he made in 2006 that were widely condemned as an attack on Islam.

In a speech at Regensburg University in his native Germany, Benedict quoted a 14th-century Byzantine emperor as saying, “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”

In the face of protests from the Muslim world, the Vatican said the pope’s remarks had been misinterpreted and that he “deeply regretted” that the speech “sounded offensive to the sensibility of Muslim believers.” Read the full article at

Pope John XXIII was elected pope in October 1958.

Pope John XXIII was elected pope in October 1958.

No Pope has abdicated since 1415, and that was due to an extraordinary time in church history. The Great Western Schism lasted from 1378 until 1417. During that period of time two and then three men claimed to be the one legitimate pope. England, the Holy Roman Empire, and most of Italy supported the pope residing in Rome. France, Scotland, Sicily, and Naples supported the pope in residence at Avignon. Finally, Pope Gregory XI called The Council of Constance and resolved the issue by resigning his position. One of the other claimants fled and the other was deposed.

The Pope who was deposed was John XXIII.

When Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was elected Pope in 1958, he took the name of the deposed Pope. His purpose in taking the disgraceful name was grounded in his desire to stand for exactly the opposite of what the name had represented in the history of the church. He would be a reconciler, a leader who sought to foster the unity of the church, the servant of the servants who would open the church to the movement of the Holy Spirit, wherever it would take us. He was the first pope since the Reformation who acknowledged frankly that Catholicism had its share of responsibility for the sandal of a divided Christianity and stood in need of reinvigoration and reform. He wanted to put aside the hostilities of the past and “bring the church up to date.” He called for the Second Vatican Council. We know the story and it moved the faithful as much as it surprised and thrilled. Read More…

By Jason Berry

Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI

VATICAN CITY — Sister Pat Farrell and three other nuns crossed St. Peter’s Square through the fabled white columns, paused for a security check and entered the rust-colored Palace of the Holy Office.

It was April 18, 2012, and on entering the palazzo, they were aware of its history, that in this same building nearly 400 years earlier Galileo had been condemned as a heretic by the Roman Inquisition for arguing that the earth orbits around the sun.

Today, the palazzo houses the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the Vatican office that enforces adherence to church teaching. As president of Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), Sister Farrell and her executive colleagues had an appointment with the prefect, Cardinal William Levada, about a CDF investigation of their group by the forces that control the Vatican, who viewed the nuns as somehow going ‘off the reservation.’

They were walking into what Hans Küng, the internationally renowned theologian who had his own battles in the palazzo, calls “a new Inquisition.” Read the full story at Global Post.