ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — Four decades after a Catholic priest who was once a member of the Ku Klux Klan burned a cross on a black couple’s lawn, he finally wrote them an apology.

The Rev. William Aitcheson told Philip and Barbara Butler he was “blinded by hate and ignorance” when he targeted them in 1977 at their home in College Park, Maryland.

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In a letter dated Sept. 8, Aitcheson wrote he rejected those beliefs before he joined the priesthood, but was too ashamed to face the Butlers.

The Washington Post reports that Philip King said during a news conference Friday that he wants to forgive Aitcheson, but is not ready. He said: “I can’t do it yet.”

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Aitcheson was sentenced in 1977 to 90 days in jail. He was ordained in 1988.

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