SOUTH ORANGE — A man who repeatedly wore a Black Lives Matter T-shirt while serving as a lector at a Catholic church was asked by the priest to reconsider wearing it, after receiving criticism from other parishioners.

A letter said to be written by a priest from Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in South Orange was posted to the public Facebook group, SOMA Black Parents Workshop.

“I obviously have neither the power nor the desire to dictate what clothing a person wears to church. On the other hand, I don’t wish to see a T-shirt become a source of division among my parishioners,” Priest Brian Needles said in the letter as quoted on the community group's Facebook page.

Needles also said in the letter that he prefers any male reading at Mass to wear a collared shirt and not a T-shirt, with or without a political slogan on it.

"I therefore respectfully request that you, in a spirit of good will, refrain from wearing that T-shirt or any other T-shirt with an overtly political slogan on it when lectoring."

As reported by Village Green of Maplewood and South Orange, the parishioner, 68-year-old Tom Morris, has served as a lector at the church for a number of years, raising his family as members of the church. The same report said since receiving the priest's feedback, Morris has started attending Mass at a different Catholic church that is a more "progressive" parish.

Lectors are volunteers who read from scriptures during a mass, usually from a position on the altar.

There is a dress code for all lay ministers in Catholic churches, which is communicated during their training, according to a statement from the Archdiocese of Newark.

"The policy requires celebrants and lay ministers to refrain from wearing T-shirts as well as any clothing that draws attention to the individual and distracts from the Word of God. This is to ensure that the assembly’s attention is focused on Scripture and not on the individual proclaiming it," the statement said.

The Archdiocese of Newark statement continued: "In response to this incident, we are asking our pastors to reinforce the archdiocesan dress code for ministers in their parish communities and to be prepared to address questions and concerns. We hope this ensures that parish celebrants and lay ministers are comfortable with the policy and the purpose behind it."

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