The press release:
The Most Reverend Nicholas DiMarzio, Bishop of Brooklyn, is pleased to announce that churches in the Diocese of Brooklyn can re-open for private prayer and devotion beginning Tuesday, May 26. Masks will be required of all who enter a church. Funerals and limited celebrations of Baptisms and Weddings can also begin.
“It has been a challenging few months for Catholics in Brooklyn and Queens. We know many people have eagerly been awaiting the day our churches would open. While we cannot celebrate Mass just yet, it is so important that we can now enter for prayer. It is my hope that this will give many of our faithful great comfort during this difficult time,” said Bishop DiMarzio. Mass continues to be streamed online and broadcast on the Diocesan cable channel, NET-TV.
Beyond the requirement to wear masks, the Diocese urges anyone who feels sick in any way not to come to church for prayer. Entry to the church will be limited to ten people, as per New York State guidelines, and all who enter the church must maintain the six feet social distancing regulation at all times. Funerals, Baptisms, and Weddings will also be limited to ten people, with everyone required to wear a mask.
Additionally, the faithful are being asked to check with individual parishes for the specific hours their church will be open for prayer. Ushers and/or volunteers will be present to assist with social distancing.
Diocese of Brooklyn churches have been closed since March 20 due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The reopening of churches is Phase 1 of a multi-phase plan that will ultimately lead to the resumption of Mass when there are no longer the government requirements limiting the number of people at a service to 10. The dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass remains in effect until further notice.
The Diocesan Committee on Re-opening Churches is being led by Joseph Esposito, the former New York City Emergency Management Commissioner, who brings 45 years of experience in the New York City Police Department, including his role as Chief of Department.
“We are consulting with medical and health professionals to ensure the safety of all priests and parishioners who enter Brooklyn and Queens churches. In my nearly 50 years of service to the city, this is one of the hardest issues I have had to deal with. The risks are great which is why we have to get things right the first time,” said Commissioner Esposito.
“As we begin the process of reopening our churches, we must understand that we will not be able to resume church life as we enjoyed it before. There will be a series of changes designed to keep everyone healthy and safe during prayer and worship. I am confident that we will respond, as faithful People of God, to the challenges placed before us,” said Bishop DiMarzio.
Footnote: in his Zoom call with deacons Saturday morning, the bishop said he will strongly encourage people to receive communion by hand (which was the policy before the lockdown began). He is also going to remind people that the reception of communion is not mandatory; if people feel uncomfortable with any of this, they should make a spiritual communion.