Fears of the sudden escalation of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has already forced the cancellation of various events in the Big Apple, but the religious services of the Catholic churches to commemorate the birth of Jesus, this December 24 and 25, mainly the Midnight Mass at midnight, they remain unchanged.
“We follow New York State guidelines that require everyone indoors to wear a mask. For the rest, all our programming remains intact with the certainty that our parishioners have shown great seriousness to meet safety standards “, explained Adriana Rodríguez spokesperson for the Diocese of Brooklyn
Christmas is one of the celebrations in the Christian calendar that most summons the faithful to the temples, and especially to Hispanic families.
In fact, Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Brooklyn serves a community of more than 3.5 million Catholics in New York City, more than 60% are Latino.
In this sense, the Bishop of Brooklyn, Robert Brennan, ratified that the possibility of the Catholic churches being closed again as happened in the spring of 2020 is not close.
“I think we are in a very different place. We know much more about this virus. And we know how we can mitigate some of those concerns. And I think the most important thing is that we have fostered a sense of caring for each other, trying to be respectful. New York has one of the highest vaccination rates“, argument.
“Stay home if you feel bad “
The Catholic hierarch insisted that those who feel sick should stay home.
“You don’t need a dispensation if you’re sick. The church has always taught that. The same is true if you are caring for someone who is sick or if their health is fragile. If going to Mass puts you in danger, or if you are reasonably afraid, then you are forgiven. That is why we ask people to make prudent decisions based on their own health, the health of the people around them and the needs they have, “he added.
In the previous Christmas season of 2020, strongly marked by the second wave of coronavirus, the diocesan churches adopted special measures, to avoid the high concentration of devotees. They even set up digital reservation methods. In addition, they encouraged older adults not to attend masses and other ceremonies.
This year, even with the vaccine on the scene, the high rate of positive cases with the new variant is becoming a ‘way of the cross’ for the New York City health authorities, given the certainty of an explosion of contagions on these eve of Christmas Eve.
The protocols to follow
Churches do not apply more restrictions than masks, since the possibility of requiring proof of vaccination Before entering the temples it would be very complicated.
“Generally we are talking about hundreds of people who come to churches. So far we have not considered requiring proof of vaccination at the door of the temples. Technically, it would be very complicated. We trust that our parishioners are aware of the risks and so far they have shown it ”, stated Rodríguez.
However, special security protocols have been established, in addition to the use of masks. The distribution of wine was suspended during communion and prohibit handshakes during the peace sign.
The use of face protection in all phases of ceremonies, such as Masses, has been part of the “communication” work of the Diocese of Brooklyn in the 250 governing parishes in that county and in Queens.
For example, at the time of the ritual when the priests distribute the ostia (symbol of the body of Christ) the parishioners have forbidden to lower the protection. They are invited to receive it in hand and bring it to their mouths when at a distance.
In the church Our Lady of Guadalupe on 14th Street in Manhattan, historically the center of large congregations at this time, the parish priest Juan Esteban Martínez highlights that the pandemic has almost naturally “regulated” the high density of attendees.
“We have a capacity for at least 400 people in our church. Even with the lifting of the restrictions, we received with much love an average of 200 and 250 people for each liturgy. In the banks there is a natural distancing. They are almost always reunited with family groups, but the same people take their precautions ”, described Martínez.
The expectation is that during the next Christmas masses, many concentrations will not be generated either, since the expansive presence of Ómicron that has already forced the cancellation of the Broadway show, the inauguration ceremony of the new municipal government and other public and private events, could be “Holding the party” of many families, especially of the elderly.
Such is the case of the Ecuadorian Apupal family that this week I was visiting the Guadalupe Church in Manhattan, which also houses an image of Our Lady of the Presentation of El Quinche ”, one of the most popular religious images in the Sierra of the South American country.
“We are thinking about what to do. We have a tradition of coming to church. But with all this virus stuff, we suddenly think it’s best to keep quiet around the house. We came to see the images and the birth when everything is calmer “, they manifested as they left the temple.
Meanwhile, the Colombian Mildred Peña, 28, says that he is “negotiating” with his 70-year-old grandmother, who insists on attending the traditional Rooster Mass that will be held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral at midnight on December 25.
“It seems to me that it is time not to be attending mass events. And much less in closed spaces. We have seen how even people with vaccines repeat COVID-19. It will be good because I am not a believer. But it has been shown that neither prayers nor faith save you from the virus. Only individual responsibility, “said the student living in Lower Manhattan.
Mass of the Gallo by lottery
In the case of one of the most emblematic Catholic ceremonies of the year, which will be held at the San Patricio Cathedral on Fifth Avenue, it is scheduled for this December 25 at 12 midnight. Of course, those who wish to attend had to submit a request through an online form.
“Participating in the lottery does not guarantee that your request will be honored. Those registered will be notified before November 22 “, indicates the website of the Cathedral of Saint Patrick: https://saintpatrickscathedral.org/
Last year they only had 700 places to attend this Eucharist. Now it could not be confirmed if the temple with capacity for more than 2,000 people will also reduce access in the face of the pandemic.
If anything, church leaders in New York have been promoting the digital access and the use of traditional media as a way of massifying what they call the “word of God” in the Catholic communities of the Big Apple.
“We have seen a sustained growth in tuning for these platforms during these pandemic months. It is impressive how New Yorkers follow the available media to follow the masses and other ceremonies live. Particularly our Hispanic communities. People are taking more refuge in faith in these difficult times ”, highlights Adriana Rodríguez from the Diocese of Brooklyn.
How to follow the ceremonies virtually?
- To follow the programming of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan and the Christmas Masses scheduled for this Christmas, you can connect live through the web site: https://saintpatrickscathedral.org/live
- Get to know all the face-to-face and virtual programming of the churches of Manhattan, El Bronx y Staten Island in https://archny.org/
- The Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens has NET TV, that regarding the The pandemic has expanded the broadcast schedule to include masses and ceremonies in seven languages.
- You can find the times of the special liturgical acts for Christmas Eve and New Years, in Spanish, in the web of NET-TV. It can be viewed in the New York City area at Spectrum (Canal 97), Optimum (Canal 30) y FIOS (Canal 48).
- Masses will also be streamed live on the website: org/masses.
- For a complete list of options in Spanish visit: https://archny.org/mass/para-la-santa-misa-y-recursos-en-espanol/
Catholics in NY
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.