New York’s Catholic dioceses continue to push back on new coronavirus restrictions that have shut down more than two dozen churches in the state, despite there being no connection between churches and an outbreak of the virus.
Dennis Poust, director of communications for the New York State Catholic Conference, told CNA Tuesday that the state’s dioceses “are not aware of any outbreaks related to a Catholic Church anywhere in the state, including in the so-called ‘hot zones,’” identified by New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Cuomo announced at the start of October that there would be new “cluster” designations of “red,” “orange,” and “yellow” for zip codes that are experiencing new cases of the coronavirus.
For houses of worship located in the “red” zip codes, capacity is limited to 10 people, a figure which grows to a maximum of 25 for houses of worship in “orange” zip codes. Public and private schools, as well as “non-essential” businesses located in these “red” and “orange” zip codes were also forced to close due to the new restrictions.
These new regulations mean that about two dozen churches located in the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Brooklyn have been effectively forced to close for the time being. A federal judge rejected a request from the Diocese of Brooklyn for an injunction that would have allowed churches in the diocese to continue operating at 25% capacity.
“Gov. Cuomo talks about following the science,” Poust told CNA. “We say ‘amen.’ We are following all Department of Health and CDC guidelines and keeping our people safe, yet he effectively closed down more than two dozen Catholic churches anyway.”
Poust told CNA that New York’s bishops have been working hard to ensure the safety of all who attend their churches, with much success.
“We have been partners with the administration from Day 1 of the crisis, writing to the governor and pledging our cooperation, offering the use of Catholic facilities for spillover hospital space, whatever we could do,” Poust told CNA on Tuesday.
He noted that the bishops had dispensed the Sunday obligation and canceled Masses prior to the start of Holy Week, and that Catholic schools in New York City had closed before public schools in order to help halt the spread of the virus.
“Fighting this pandemic is a pro-life imperative and we’ve been treating it as one from the start,’ he said. “I’ve been so proud of our parishes.”
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