Effective March 20, churches and rectories in both boroughs will close to prevent the virus from spreading. Parish office business will operate via telephone only, while funerals, weddings and baptisms will not be permitted in church.
“We want to ensure that there cannot be any more possible exposure to the virus at one of our churches in Brooklyn and Queens,” said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio “This was not an easy decision to make. However, the safety of our parishioners and our priests, deacons and religious and parish staff weigh heavily on my mind.”
DiMarzio noted that celebration of masses will be broadcast on NET-TV and live-streamed online in different languages, so parishioners can still “experience a sense of solidarity” that they feel at church.
Pastors and priests at local parishes will remain available by phone or social media as well.
The diocese reported last week that a priest from Sacred Heart of Jesus in Glendale tested positive for novel coronavirus. He last celebrated mass on the morning of March 15. He was also at the soup supper on March 14 in the church basement.
Another priest who tested positive for COVID-19 celebrated mass at St. Matthew’s Church in Crown Heights on March 15. Both churches and rectories will undergo a deep cleaning and sanitization.
Over the weekend, the diocese reported four new confirmed cases within several parish communities: a choir member at St. Kevin’s Church in Flushing, a priest at St. Rose of Lima Church in Rockaway Beach, a choir member at Our Lady of Charity in Crown Heights, and a person who attended Annual Lenten Reflection at the Diocese of Brooklyn headquarters in Park Slope.
Two other cases were announced at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Astoria, including a parishioner who attended a bible study group meeting on March 10 and a child who attended a religious education class on March 11.
Those new cases were in addition to 10 confirmed cases at churches in Fresh Meadows, Jamaica, Jackson Heights, Rockaway Beach and Gowanus. The diocese cancelled all masses last Monday.
Last week, the diocese also announced that there would be no masses open to the public on Palm Sunday. Reconciliation Monday was also canceled, though priests will be available for individual confessions throughout the remainder of the Lenten season.
The Chrism Mass, the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday will all not be celebrated publicly, but will be broadcast on cable television.
“In the days and weeks ahead, let us ask God to watch over the people of our diocese and all his people,” DiMarzio said in a statement, “those who are sick, those who will fall ill and those who are caring for them.”