[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/03/30/art.bolewis0330.ap.jpg caption="Rep. Lewis sung and locked hands with Sen. Obama at a church service in Selma, Alabama last year."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, Democrat-Georgia, said Sunday that the controversy over Barack Obama's former pastor has reignited a conversation about race that could ultimately be beneficial for the country.
"The civil rights movement had the power to...what I call bring the dirt, the filth from under the American rug out of the cracks and corners, into the light so we can deal with it," said Lewis, a superdelegate who supports Obama, at a forum on faith and civil rights at Washington's National Cathedral. "Just maybe, just maybe, what is happening now will bring something out, so we all can be educated and sensitized."
While he did not mention Wright by name during a sermon he gave at the cathedral, Lewis indirectly addressed the Chicago pastor's fiery comments on race.
"During the past few days, the issue of race and the need for reconciliation have emerged through the presidential campaign. We know, and we all know, it's not a secret America had a dark past of division and separation," Lewis said. "But if we are to emerge unscarred by hate, we must learn to understand and forgive those who have been most hostile and violent towards us."
–CNN's Rachel Streitfeld and Cody Combs