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Bishop DiMarzio announces new diocesan commission on racism

U.S. Bishops’ Group Also Establishing Committee on Racial Justice

August 25, 2017 By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio calls racism the U.S.’s “particular original sin.” Eagle photo by Francesca N. Tate
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The Most Rev. Nicholas DiMarzio, bishop of Brooklyn, on Thursday announced the establishment of a new diocesan commission for social justice during a special Mass for solidarity and peace.

Dovetailing on readings from the prophet Daniel (Hebrew scriptures) and the Beatitudes from the Sermon of the Mount (New Testament Gospel according to Matthew), Bishop DiMarzio told the gathering that he is creating a commission to address racism in the Church and society at large. The Commission is named after Monsignor Bernard Quinn, a Diocese of Brooklyn priest who did not allow the Ku Klux Klan’s cruelty toward him deter him from his ministry to the African-American community.

DiMarzio was the main celebrant of the Mass. Rev. Alonzo Cox, the diocesan vicariate of Black Catholic Concerns, coordinator of Ministry for African American Catholics and the pastor of St. Martin De Porres parish, concelebrated. Brooklyn Auxiliary Bishops Guy Sansaricq, Octavio Cisneros, Raymond Chappetto, Witold Mroziewski and James Massa were also among the concelebrants.

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DiMarzio began his homily by speaking of feet of clay and iron. He compared the idols during the Babylonian exile in which the prophet Daniel lived to the statues of today.

“We too as people of the United States today have feet of clay. It is not only the statues of the Confederate heroes of the Civil War that have feet of clay, or even Washington or Jefferson.

“We in the United States have our own particular original sin. It’s called racism. And just as the Babylonian empire fell, one day we too fail to reach our potential, if we do not address this pervasive ill.”

DiMarzio continued, “It’s a sense of superiority that fuels racism, that flies in the face of the God-given knowledge that we are all made as children of God.” We profess that in our faith and in our country. We are all created equal.”

Reflecting on the Beatitudes just read as the Gospel selection, DiMarzio emphasized that one is blessed when being persecuted for one’s faith and for standing up for justice. “But this is what Jesus calls us to do,” DiMarzio said.  “Jesus calls us to be a people of faith, to put into practice the revolutionary teaching that he gave us.

Speaking of the new commission on racism’s namesake, DiMarzio said, “Monsignor Quinn is our own diocesan hero. In his name, we will address the social and religious problems that racism presents.”

Quinn also established the first African American church in the Diocese of Brooklyn during the 1920s. It was named for St. Peter Claver, whom Pope Leo XIII had canonized the day of Quinn’s birth. The Klan twice in the same year burned down an orphanage Quinn had built for African American children. “Quinn received numerous death threats,” said DiMarzio, “But he did not back down. He stood up to racism and rebuilt. He was valiant, pledging to his parishioners, ‘I would willingly shed to the last drop my life’s blood for the least among you.’”

Thursday’s Mass for solidarity and peace reminded the faithful of Brooklyn, Queens and beyond, that all are created as children of God. Prayers were offered for those injured and killed in Charlottesville, for the healing of our nation, and for all those who allowed hatred to infect their hearts.

On the national level, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has also just announced plans to establish the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism. According to Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, president of the USCCB, the committee “will be wholly dedicated to engaging the church and our society to work together in unity to challenge the sin of racism, to listen to persons who are suffering under this sin, and to come together in the love of Christ to know one another as brothers and sisters.”

By forming the committee, the bishops have placed racism as a priority they must address and quickly. During the news conference, Murry said the church in the U.S. will get the message out through its network of parishes, schools, Catholic charities and all Catholic organizations “that this is an urgent issue that demands our attention and it is a very serious issue because of the fact that racism is contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

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