BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Every year on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, St. Bernardine Church in West Baltimore holds a prayer service.

Monday, the leader of this archdiocese, Archbishop Lori, attended the service to talk about a new pastoral document dedicated to eradicating what he calls the ‘sin of racism’ in the Catholic Church.

The pews were nearly fully Monday at noon, and the head of the Baltimore archdiocese was among those greeting the parishioners.

“We ask the Lord to bless you,” Archbishop Lori said.

Archbishop Lori chose this day to release a pastoral statement about racism in the Catholic Church, a practice that reaches all the  way back to its origins in the U.S.

“The Catholic Church’s past failure to reject this sin against humanity is inexcusable,” Lori said.

“It’s very inspiring and I’m happy that he did make this statement because we needed to hear that from the leadership of the Church,” said parishioner Pam Smith.

“I was surprised. I was not ready for that. But I’m very inspired by that message and hopeful,” said Councilman Kristerfer Burnett- 8th District.

The hope is at the heart of the church’s document and hope sustains the life of this congregation.

The names of the 8 murdered, including 7-year-old Taylor Hayes, shot just a block away, were read out today, as they prayed for peace. For peace, and for a church that reflects the diversity of this community.

Deacon Barksdale is one of only six African American deacons in the city.

“They have only ordained three African American priests in the history of the archdiocese so there’s a big void there,” Barksdale said.

A void the church now says it is determined to fill for, as Archbishop Lori quoted Dr. King,

“I can never be what I ought to be unless you are what you should be,” Lori said.

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