By Emily Drooby
Churches across the Diocese of Brooklyn have been closed since March 20 because of the pandemic. As New York starts to look at their reopening options, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio is also preparing.
“We want to be ready to go as soon as we get the clearance…It’s not going to be exactly the way it was when we stopped because of the need for social distancing,” explained the Bishop of Brooklyn.
He is forming an ad hoc committee to help him develop a roadmap detailing how churches will reopen. Bishop DiMarzio has tapped Joseph Esposito, the former commissioner of New York City’s Office of Emergency Management, to chair the committee
Esposito’s plan? “To get a head start and lay some ground rules on how we are going to do this.”
There are many logistics to figure out: how many people can fit at one time, how to avoid overcrowding, will masks and taking temperatures be required, what events will be allow first and how they’re going to deal with communion.
“Do we let the priest give out the host, do we let the parishioners pick up the host, do we bring it back at all, do only the priests and Eucharistic ministers receive communion?” asked Esposito. “These are the issue we have to deal with.”
Bishop DiMarzio and Esposito are seeking other members to be part of the committee, and are considering retired police officials, medical personnel and people with experience in government to join.
Safely reopening will not be an easy task. Brooklyn and Queens are two of the areas hit hardest by the pandemic.
“It’s hitting us hard,” said Bishop DiMarzio. “I know one parish, there’s 75-80 parishioners who have died. This was last week’s count, that have died. That’s a lot of people in one parish.”
Bishop DiMarzio and Esposito both has confidence the committee will be able to come up with a good and safe plan.
“We continue working on it. I think we will be ready for when the governor and elected officials say it’s good to go and open up,” said Esposito.
Bishop DiMarzio described “a sense of hope and relief” in the discussions he has held so far.