Brooklyn Boro

Faith-based response widens statewide, addressing white supremacy, hate actions

August 21, 2017 By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio speaks during a 2016 interfaith rally at Grand Army Plaza. Standing with him are Rabbi Joseph Potasnik of the New York Board of Rabbis, and Msgr. David Cassato. Rabbi Potasnik is one of the signers of Gov. Cuomo’s just-released statement against hatred. Eagle file photo by Francesca N. Tate

Brooklyn’s Roman Catholic Diocese Announces Mass for Solidarity and Peace

Clergy across New York state, including several Brooklyn-based faith leaders from a variety of religious traditions, have joined Gov. Andrew Cuomo in an open letter condemning white supremacy and hatred in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville on Saturday, Aug. 12 and ongoing protests. Meanwhile, in Brooklyn, at least two congregations have announced special services to counteract hatred with love and respect.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn announced on Monday, Aug. 21 that Bishop DiMarzio would preside at a Mass for solidarity and peace this Thursday, Aug. 24, in response to the recent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Bishop DiMarzio and the Diocese of Brooklyn’s Ministry for African American Catholics are co-sponsoring the Mass, which will take place at St. James Cathedral-Basilica at 7:30 p.m. that night. Concelebrating the Mass with Bishop DiMarzio will be the Rev. Alonzo Cox, Vicariate of Black Catholic Concerns, Coordinator of Ministry for African American Catholics, and the pastor of St. Martin De Porres Parish.

According to a statement for the special liturgy, “The tragic events that unfolded in Charlottesville, Virginia revealed a nation still tainted by the evils of racism, bigotry, white supremacy and neo-Nazism. The Mass will bring together the faithful of Brooklyn, Queens and beyond, to pray for our nation, the three people who lost their lives, the many more injured, as well as all those who have allowed the seeds of hatred to grow in their hearts.”

The Rev. Cox said, “As Catholics, our greatest weapon against hatred, violence and anger is prayer.”

The Brooklyn Heights Clergy Association had also announced last week an Interfaith Solidarity Gathering to commemorate the Charlottesville violence.  First Unitarian Church, on Pierrepont Street and Monroe Place, on Tuesday, Aug. 22 at 6:30 p.m.

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Meanwhile, clergy from the Jewish, Muslim and Christian traditions signed a letter condemning the espousal of hatred, and called for people of faith to unite more strongly in love. According to the statement from Gov. Cuomo’s office, more than 125 faith-based leaders signed the letter. However, an Excel spreadsheet count as of 1 p.m. on Monday showed 132 signers.

Among them are prominent Brooklyn leaders, including the Rev. A.R. Bernard of the Christian Cultural Center; Rabbi Serge Lippe of the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue; Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive director of the New York Board of Rabbis and senior rabbi emeritus of Congregation Mount Sinai; Dr. Debbie Altmontaser of the Muslim Community Network; and Cheikh Ahmed, Islamic Leadership Council of Metro NY. Several leaders of larger denominational bodies, including the Episcopal Church USA, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the New York State Council of Churches, also signed.

The full text of the 243-word letter follows:

“In the wake of the unspeakable violence in Charlottesville this past weekend, perpetrated by white supremacists espousing hate, we come together not in fear but in hope and in faith — stronger and more united than ever before in the face of bigotry and violence.

“This week, from this White House, we have heard the racist dog whistles of campaign rhetoric morph into the clear and undeniable language of racism.

“In New York, we stand with those who stand against hate.  We, as leaders in this great state, unequivocally condemn the language and violence of white supremacy.  We stand together to say that there are not many sides to hatred and bigotry; they have no place in our communities and must be denounced for what they are.  Such hateful and painful rhetoric is a poison to the values of tolerance, inclusion and love that underscore our collective humanity.

“This week and every week, we stand united in love, mutual understanding and respect.  We are here to tell our communities that we stand with them against intolerance, bigotry and racism.  Whether it is the insidious hidden call or the outright slur — racism must be condemned.

“While Washington wavers, New York stands strong. In the face of hate, we will not stand idly by. This weekend, and every weekend, we will preach and celebrate the beauty of diversity and respect for all. It is our hope that those in Washington will listen and join us.”