PORTLAND, Maine — Bishop Robert P. Deeley of Portland Maine, called for the country to continue working to end “any form of religious prejudice” during a New Year’s Day Mass.

Citing incidents of religious violence as 2019 came to a close, including a knife attack at a rabbi’s home in New York and a shooting at a Texas church, Deeley said American society is experiencing “too much” religious-based violence and hatred.ma

“Unfortunately, it marks the century for us,” he told worshippers at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland. “We have seen too many shootings and attacks on religious houses and communities. As Christians we cannot tolerate any kind of religious prejudice.”

Deeley attributed the violence to “the implicit permission of society” for giving rise to such attacks.

While acknowledging that some of the attacks are carried out by “mentally disturbed” people, he said they “find their ideas in places where such hatred is fostered.”

The bishop called on people to look into their hearts and reflect on their thoughts and words to ensure that they are not contributing to prejudice.

“We should be overcoming all prejudice,” Deeley said. “No one should be judged on his or her religion or race.”

He also urged people to pray for the comfort of people hurt in the recent violence as well as those who lost friends or family members in the incidents. “And, in prayer, as well, we ask the Lord to cleanse our hearts and our minds of any form of prejudice by which we prejudge others,” he said.

Pointing to religious freedom as enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution, Deeley said people should be able to worship and practice their faith freely and openly.

He said the story of Jesus’ birth can provide answers to the problems facing American society. Mary, Jesus’ mother, also can show people how to follow God more closely.

“She asks of herself how God is acting in her life. In her reflection, in her prayer, she holds the things that happen to her, and she looks at the way in which God directs her life through these events,” the bishop said.

“Mary knew in her heart that only in reflection, in prayer, in conversation with the God who had asked her to be the mother of his child would she be able to carry on her mission, to be faithful to what she had been called,” he continued.

He suggested that Mary become a “model of prayer” because she “shows us that we should go before the Lord in silence to listen and to ponder.” The world can be a noisy, chaotic place, he said, adding: “We need to find silence. In the silence we meet God.”

Deeley returned to the Christmas mystery of Jesus’ birth, encouraging the Massgoers to pray and reflect on how he is asking the faithful to “participate in his mission of bringing God’s love into the world.”

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