The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn has announced that effective this weekend, May 22-23, all Catholic churches throughout Brooklyn and Queens can return to full capacity. The change was made among a listing of COVID-19 policy guidance updates, according to a press release sent by the diocese.
The announcement from Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio comes in the aftermath of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and New York State relaxing many restrictions due to lower rates of infection, and higher numbers of people being vaccinated against Covid-19.
Churches were closed and then tightly restricted in their capacity since March 2020.
“It is a good day,” DiMarzio said “Our churches are at full capacity once again, though we continue to keep restrictions in place knowing there are people yet to be vaccinated. We are not giving up our guard and as a community, it is very important that we continue to provide the safest environment possible for all to worship.”
DiMarzio has issued the following guidelines:
• Brooklyn and Queens churches may open to full 100 percent capacity. There is no longer a need to rope off a pew between occupied rows.
• Social distancing is still required for those who are not vaccinated. Unvaccinated parishioners should distance themselves from others who are not members of the same household.
• Masks are still mandatory in church for those who are not vaccinated. However, everyone is encouraged to wear masks while in church.
• Hymnals and missalettes may once again be used.
• Lectors can read from the main pulpit.
• Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion may resume their ministry with proper hand hygiene before and after assisting in the distribution of Holy Communion.
• Collection baskets may resume as normal.
• The Offertory Procession with the gifts of bread and wine can resume.
• Choirs with vaccinated members can operate as normal; unvaccinated choir members must continue to maintain social distancing.
• Altar servers may resume their ministry with proper hygiene protocols.
• Hand hygiene is still required and disinfectant use should be encouraged. Additionally, it is wise to provide disinfectant at church entrances.
• Holy Communion is still to be given under the form of bread only. There are no shared Communion cups. Receiving in the hand is still the recommended practice.
The diocese said it is relying on the honesty of the faithful as to their vaccination status. The dispensation from attending Holy Mass, which has been in effect since the start of the pandemic, will be lifted the weekend of June 5-6, on the Feast Day of Corpus Christi. Although the dispensation will be lifted, those who are feeling ill and those caring for the sick, continue to be dispensed from the obligation to attend Mass.
Parishes are encouraged to continue live-streaming of Mass, and DeSales Media will continue the broadcast of the Holy Mass on the Diocesan cable channel, NET-TV, which can be seen on FIOS by Verizon on channel 548, Spectrum on Channel 30, Optimum on channel 30 or the channel’s website at netny.tv.