Coronavirus News: Diocese of Brooklyn churches to reopen for private prayer

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The Diocese of Brooklyn announced Friday their churches can reopen for private prayer and devotion beginning Tuesday, May 26.

Church officials said 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," Bishop of Brooklyn Nicholas DiMarzio said. "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."

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.

The 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.

"We are consulting with medical and health professionals to ensure the safety of all priests and parishioners who enter Brooklyn and Queens churches," said Commissioner Joseph Esposito, of the Diocesan Committee. "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."

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