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Religious Leaders Using This Moment In History To Heal, Teach Congregants

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Martin Luther King, Jr. penned a letter to his "fellow clergymen," expressing his disappointment in the lack of support from white religious leaders during the civil rights movement more than 50 years ago.

CBS2's Vanessa Murdock reports on the messages faith leaders are sending to their congregations, as pleas to end racial injustice still ring around the world.

Most Reverend Nicholas DiMarzio, bishop of Brooklyn, addressed the death of George Floyd and racism during his homily on Sunday.

"We must understand that societal change of the evil of racism must happen," he said. "People are not born racist. It's picked up by attitudes, feelings and words."

The United Missionary Baptist Association of New York held a freedom march.

Faith leaders around the tri-state are taking this moment to help their congregations learn and heal.

"We absolutely feel an obligation to speak with our congregants about this and to help them understand what's going on, help them process it and most importantly figure out what we're going to do about it," said Rabbi Karen Perolman, senior associate rabbi at Congregation B'nai Jeshurun in Short Hills, N.J.

Perolman said her focus is on education.

"Helping everyone feel like they have the language, the vocabulary to participate in the conversation," said Perolman, who believes she will invite others to help in the coming weeks and months.

"Pray, and stay calm, and stay rational," said Father Andrew Carrozza of St. Ann's church in Yonkers, N.Y. "I hope the church can act as a liaison for change."

While pastors address racism in masses streamed on social media, the Archdiocese of New York told CBS2 the Sheen Center for Thought & Culture uses the arts to promote a healing dialogue.

David DiCerto, interim executive director of the center, hopes his online conversation with actress and playwright Angela Polite about her one woman play Mary Speaks accomplishes that.

"I do use Mother Mary as a prototype for black mothers who are struggling to not only raise their sons, but keep them alive in a society that sees them as a threat," said Polite.

Through her expression of the burden of black mothers, Polite wants to inspire true change.

"If we really believe we are brothers and sisters in Christ, or human beings, hopefully it can get us to a place where we see each other as human again," she said.

The Commission of Religious Leaders - which includes Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Rev. Dr. A. R. Bernard and Rabbi Joseph Potasnik - issued a statement:

"We stand together to declare that all life is sacred, and all people are equal before the law in a democratic society."

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