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The Catholic bishop of Brooklyn and Queens -- two boroughs that have been rocked in recent years by highly publicized racially motivated assaults -- has urged New Yorkers to strive to overcome racism.

In a pastoral letter and in a prayer service Sunday in St. James Cathedral, Bishop Thomas V. Daily called racism a "plague of separation" that is "frequently traceable to a conviction on the part of some that they are better than anyone else."

He said: "The root causes of racism can be traced to poverty, discrimination, homelessness and inferior education. All institutions -- the church foremost -- must re-examine efforts to eliminate racism by dealing effectively with these serious ills in our society."

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