BROOKLYN, N.Y. - It's not a typical homily delivered from a Catholic Church pulpit that you hear the message:

"In the year 2020 Black and brown people are crying out. We are crying out to no longer be oppressed. Crying out to be looked upon as equals. Crying out to have our voices heard."

What You Need To Know

  • The Brooklyn Diocese created the Commission three years ago

  • It was the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville VA that prompted the Diocese to act

  • The Commission looks at racism within the church, its schools and society

  • Recommendations include more robust multi cultural school curriculum

But the sermon wasn't part of a regular mass. It was mass for racial justice and solidarity, the first of its kind in the Brooklyn Diocese.

"No one wants to gt up on a pulpit and talk about racism," said Pastor Alonzo Cox. “But I think it's important for people to hear and understand that it's here and it's real, it's alive and we need to defeat it."

Pastor Cox is secretary for the Commission on Racism and Social Justice for the Diocese, which oversees all Roman Catholic churches in Brooklyn and Queens.  The Commission was set up after the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia three years ago. The aim was to examine racism in society - and within the diocese.

Auxilary Bishop Neil Tiedemann is its chairman.

"First of all the Church always has to react to what is going on in the world, in society and in our Diocese," said Tiedemann. "I think sometimes we get confused with what is political and what is really the social teachings of the church, that all people are created in the image and likeness of God. That we're to struggle against anything that would take away dignity of people whether it's systemic racism or racism that we would find deep in our hearts."

In addition to the mass, the commission is also holding listening tours with clergy, parishioners and schools.

"Hearing some of the older African-Americans talk about their experiences was enlightening for me," said Reverend Cox. “As a young African-American Catholic priest, to hear from them that they weren’t allowed to serve as alter boys, they weren’t allowed to exercise ministry because they were black. And they held onto that."

The commission will be organizing its findings and offering solutions which are expected to include the development of a more robust multi ethnic curriculum in the diocese schools. And a recommendation to keep the dialogue going in its masses.

Pastor Cox preached, “It's easy to forget that one of the ways that racism persists in the world is how the narratives or marginalized people can become distorted by ignorance and hatred."

They are problems the Brooklyn Diocese hopes to shine light on.