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Diocese announces changes to Catholic services because of coronavirus

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No further public liturgies will be permitted until further notice, the Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre announced on March 24. This includes funerals, weddings, baptisms, and any other cause for gathering people together in Catholic churches, other than private prayer.

Emergency sacraments are permitted, but only while exercising the proper health precautions. Burial services may be offered if possible while observing all safe distance precautions, and should be done at the grave site. Wake services should no longer be conducted. Both wakes and funeral masses can be postponed.

Private masses and live streamed or recorded masses and devotions are still permitted. Pastors can have a very small group of assistants for filming if necessary while maintaining the proper precautions.

Following instructions from Governor Cuomo’s office, churches can remain open for private prayer, while maintaining the proper precautions regarding distancing and groups of people congregating.

Because Cuomo is permitting churches to remain open for private prayer, the Diocese is also permitted to have maintenance personnel keeping the churches clean. Since this may not be possible in every parish for various reasons, it is up to the judgment of the pastors to assess the particular circumstances for their parish and make appropriate decisions.

Pastors are encouraged to keep churches open for prayer if possible. Only essential personnel for essential operations as defined in Cuomo’s executive order are permitted to work on premises. This may include outreach personnel. However, proper precautions must be observed. All others must work from home.

Pastors should not plan to distribute Palms for Palm Sunday or make them available at this time. Palms will be blessed in parish churches on Palm Sunday and will be made available at a later date.