Due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis, the head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens has waived Sunday Mass attendance obligations for Catholics in both boroughs until further notice.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio announced Friday that scheduled Sunday Masses will be held in all churches within the diocese, but Catholics do not have to attend them. Anyone who chooses to attend Masses is urged to exercise caution; the diocese is also complying with new capacity regulations imposed under the state of emergency that Governor Andrew Cuomo declared this week.
The Archdiocese of New York, which includes Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island, went a step further Saturday in announcing that all its Masses are cancelled this weekend. That followed the Dutchess County government’s decision to ban all gatherings in excess of 20 people.
All churches in the archdiocese, however, will remain open to the public for prayer.
“Let us pray for all who are sick, as well as the doctors, nurses, caregivers and all those working hard to combat the disease,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archidiocese’s leader. “We should also remember those whose lives have otherwise been disturbed, especially anyone who has lost income from a loss of work during this difficult time.”
Attending Sunday Mass is considered obligatory for Roman Catholics. The services include peace offerings through handshakes and the distribution of Holy Communion — either by hand or directly into the mouth.
But the coronavirus outbreak had forced Catholic churches to implement changes to minimize direct contact, as the virus can easily be transmitted from person to person.
For instance, the Diocese of Brooklyn recently suspended the distribution of consecrated wine — representing the blood of Jesus Christ — which is shared among multiple people through chalices.
The diocese also urges all to receive Holy Communion in the hand, rather than having a priest of Eucharistic minister distribute the consecrated bread onto their tongues. Holy water fonts in some churches have also been emptied as a precaution.
Anyone choosing to attend Mass this weekend, the Diocese of Brooklyn announced, should take normal precautions when gathering. Weddings, funerals and other celebrations may go forward, but attendance should be limited, the diocese added.
“In these extremely difficult and challenging times, it is the primary duty of the Diocese to keep the faithful safe and healthy,” the diocese added.
For those who wish to celebrate Mass without leaving their home, the Diocese of Brooklyn airs Masses on the weekends on its cable channel, NET-TV. A Vigil Mass from Immaculate Conception Church in Jamaica, Queens is aired at 6 p.m. every Saturday night, and a Sunday morning Mass from St. James Cathedral in Downtown Brooklyn airs at 11 a.m. A Spanish language Mass from the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Brooklyn airs at 1:30 p.m. on Sundays.
NET-TV is available on Spectrum (Channel 97), Optimum (Channel 30), and FiOS (Channel 48). Viewers can also tune in online at netny.tv.
Meanwhile, a private Mass will be celebrated at 10:15 a.m. this Sunday at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan, and will be broadcast on the Catholic Faith Network and live-streamed on the cathedral’s website.
This story was updated on March 14 at 3:35 p.m.