NEW YORK (AP) – Long-time leader of the Brooklyn Roman Catholic Church said on Friday that a Supreme Court ruling banning New York from imposing certain restrictions on religious services in areas severely affected by the coronavirus is a “good decision” for constitutional protection. provides for the free practice of religion.
The Supreme Court, late Wednesday, stood with the Diocese of Brooklyn and other religious organizations in the state of New York to temporarily ban New York restrictions on groups. In an unsigned opinion, the Supreme Court said the restrictions “highlight the house of prayer for particularly harsh treatment”. Groups said state action had limited attendance at religious worshipers, while other businesses in state-designated red zones could remain open without capacity restrictions.
“Currently, we see this as a good decision, opening the understanding that the rights of the First Amendment are much more powerful than someone’s right to purchase,” Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio said in an interview with the Associated Press.
DiMarzio also praised Pope Francis, who criticized groups protesting against COVID-19 restrictions in an opinion article published in the New York Times on Thursday.
“I think the Pope’s words are wonderful. I don’t think we protested. I don’t think we’ve ever denied the rules that apply to us, but our views differed on how many people can enter a building. That’s a big difference from chattering the rules, as some congregations in Brooklyn and Queens have done, ”he told the AP. – They refused to take precautions. This was not our case. We did everything we were asked to do and much more. ”
– So I think that’s a big difference. I don’t think these words from the pope really apply to us – it’s not an ideological issue. This is not anti-government, but it examines the first amendment that people have the right to worship whenever possible. “
New York City became an early hot spot in the United States, with Brooklyn and Queens among the deadliest, most severely affected areas of the city.
The Diocese of Brooklyn and the American Israel Agudath have churches and synagogues in areas previously designated as red and orange zones in the two neighborhoods. The state restricted attendance at houses of worship: 10 people in the red zones and 25 in the orange zones. But these areas are today called the yellow zone, with less strict rules, not disputed by any group.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has stated that the court’s decision “has no significance for any practical effect” as the restrictions have already been lifted. Cuomo also said the 5-4 verdict, in which the new judge, Amy Coney Barrett, is in the majority, is more to show that the Supreme Court has changed the stripes. But DiMarzio disagreed.
“(Cuomo) said the court changed its decision because it was politically convenient, it had nothing to do with it,” DiMarzio said. “The Supreme Court changes its position many times.”
The churches under the Diocese of Brooklyn were disproportionately affected and suffered many losses at the beginning of the pandemic. Reverend Jorge Ortiz-Garay, pastor of St. Brigid’s Church in Brooklyn, was the first Catholic priest in the United States to die of the coronary virus. By July, St. Bartholomew’s Roman Catholic Church in Queens reported that at least 74 parishioners had died from COVID-19.
DiMarzio said that Reverend Ortiz-Garay and Gioacchino Basile, a priest in the Archdiocese of Newark who was pastor of St. Gabriel Church in East Elhhurst, had been infected with the virus even before the pandemic control rules were issued.
– So you shouldn’t look at this. Then, for example, with the thought of St. Bartholomew: This does not mean that they fell ill in the church. That means they got sick.
DiMarzio said he closed the churches 10 days before the governor’s order and delayed the opening by a week after the order was lifted in July. “So, I think we were too careful …” he said. A spokesman for the Diocese of Brooklyn said the church pastor said St. Bartholomew had not reported a new death since July.
The 18-point precautions of the diocesan Brooklyn and Queens churches include regular disinfection of the churches, asking everyone to wear a mask for the entire Mass and maintain social distance. Priesthood members should also disinfect their hands before Mass, while those gathering should not exchange peace and hold hands while praying, and the sacrifice should be handed over. DiMarzio also said that all masses are broadcast live and personal services are provided for approx. It is limited to 50% capacity.
– Look, we were the epicenter of this in the beginning. Now. We are the best. From the worst, we have become the best because of the limitations and the methods people follow. , ”He said, openly calling the rules issued by the Cuomo restrictive.
“In congregations of between ten people and 25 people, between 500 and 1,000 people, this is the point because we have not been appointed to be essential. We were dealing with theaters, bowling alleys and other leisure activities, and not something that was essential as a church. “
DiMarzio expects the Christmas season to be challenging after a long epidemic, but essential for believers.
“People want to go to Mass at Christmas. Children need to see the nativity scene and perform it, sometimes in different churches. So we’re trying to prepare for it again safely, ”he said.
Associated Press religious reporting receives support from Lilly Endowment through the Religious News Foundation. The AP is solely responsible for the content.