The Archdiocese of New York on Thursday released a plan for a phased-in reopening during the coronavirus pandemic, using protocols developed with the advice of medical professionals to help safeguard worshipers.
The five-phase plan for the archdiocese, which includes New York City as well as surrounding counties, begins with the resumption of private prayer and confessions, followed by the celebration of baptisms and marriages with attendance limited to 10 people, according to a summary. Later phases in the plan envision the distribution of weekday Communion outside Mass, followed by limited daily and funeral Masses.
The archdiocese's plan was revealed on the same day that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo cleared the way for resuming religious gatherings with up to 10 people, provided that social distancing is observed and masks are worn. Those requirements are part of the Catholic leaders' plan, along with hand sanitizing upon entrance of a church, the emptying of holy water as well as baptismal fonts, and frequent cleaning of church facilities.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, briefing reporters on the plan, described worship as “essential services for the well-being of our community.”
Dolan, a member of an interfaith group advising Cuomo on the gradual resumption of in-person worship in the state, noted that Catholics' obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains suspended and described the eventual resumption of those Masses as a future “touchy point.”
Attendance at any specific Mass should be limited to 25% of a church's occupancy permit, the archdiocese's plan states. It specifies that any priest distributing Communion wear a mask, sanitize hands and socially distance, while forgoing any distribution of wine as part of the ritual.
All priests in the archdiocese are set to be tested for the coronavirus weekly as part of the plan.
Dolan said some regions of the archdiocese would likely be able to advance at a faster pace than others through the reopening phases, vowing that “we want to be really attentive to the metrics that have been established” for safe resumption of activities. He did not offer a firm date for the resumption of services but said some churches could be open for private worship as soon as next week.
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