Many Catholics across the city have been anxiously awaiting word on when it will be safe for local churches to reopen for services.

In a major announcement Thursday, the Archdiocese of New York says it’s come up with a step-by-step plan that will bring some significant changes to 300 Roman Catholic Churches in Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island, and seven counties north of the city.

"After 10 rough weeks, it’s time for appropriately gradual reopening and staggering of services," said Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

What You Need To Know

  • Five-part "Faith Forward” plans begin with churches reopening for private prayer and confessions.

  • Capacity for masses will be capped at 25 percent.

  • Priests will be tested for coronavirus weekly, but parishioners' temperatures will not be taken.

  • Sunday Mass services will be part of the plan's final phase, not expected for at least 6 weeks.

Dolan says the resumption of Sunday Mass, which attracts the largest crowds each week, will be the final step of what he calls "Faith Forward," a five-part plan to fully reopen churches in the Archdiocese of New York. While full implementation will depend on the easing of state restrictions, church official expect it will take about six weeks for all five phases to be in motion.

All five phases involve masks being worn. The first phase, which is underway right now, includes the reopening of churches for private prayer and confessions. However, confessions will not be held in traditional confessionals, which do not allow for proper social distancing.

Phase 2 include baptisms and marriages inside the church, but with a limit of 10 people.

Phase 3 allows for the distribution of Holy Communion outside of Mass, but only the Host or Body of Christ can be distributed, and it will only be offered by hand. Parishioners will no longer have the option to receive it on their tongue. The Blood of Christ, which would have parishioners drink out of a shared cup, will not be offered.

Phase 4 calls for churches to hold weekday masses and funeral masses, but with limited attendance - no more than 25 percent of church capacity. There will be designated sections where families can sit together, with all groups sitting at least six feet apart from others.

Finally, phase 5 will include Sunday Masses with supervised attendance, but also at 25 percent capacity. 

Some parishioners and Monsignor Kevin Sullivan of the Church of Our Savior, where a press conference announcing the five phases was held Thursday, told NY1 they are eager to once again join together as a church community.       

"This is my parish, and I really miss it," said Najwa Nejame, a parishioner at Church of Our Savior in Murray Hill.

"We’re just hoping that we can do it as soon as possible," said Monsignor Sullivan, "But we’re going to make sure everybody is safe when we do it."

To reduce the volume of high-touch surfaces, holy water and misalettes are being removed, and doors will be kept open.   

While there are no plans to take the temperature of any parishioners, priests will be tested for the coronavirus on a weekly basis.



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