New York (AFP) – The longtime head of the Roman Catholic Church in Brooklyn said on Friday that a Supreme Court ruling that prevented New York from imposing certain restrictions on religious services in areas severely affected by the coronavirus is a “good decision” that guarantees constitutional protection for the practice of religion. free.
Late Wednesday, the Supreme Court sided with the Brooklyn Archdiocese and other religious organizations in New York State in temporarily blocking New York from imposing restrictions on groups. In an unsigned opinion, the Supreme Court said the restrictions “concern places of worship with particularly harsh treatment.” The groups said that state conduct has had a limited presence of worshipers while other businesses in state-designated red zones may remain open without capacity restrictions.
“Right now, we see this as a good decision, which opens the door to the understanding that First Amendment rights are much stronger than someone’s right to shop,” said Bishop Nicholas Demarzio in an interview with The Associated Press.
Demarzio also paid tribute to the words of Pope Francis, who in an article published in the New York Times on Thursday criticized groups protesting against the COVID-19 restrictions.
“I think the Pope’s words are wonderful. I don’t think we needed. I don’t think we absolutely rejected the rules that were imposed on us, except that we had a difference of opinion about how many people could enter the building. That’s a big difference from bragging about the rules, as some rallies in Brooklyn have done. And Queens, “he told The Associated Press. They refused to take precautions. This was not our case. We have fulfilled everything we have been asked to do and more. ”
“So, I think it’s a big difference. I don’t think the Pope’s words really apply to us – this is not an ideological issue. It’s not anti-government, but it is looking in the First Amendment that people have the right to worship when possible.”
New York City has become a hotspot in the United States for the pandemic and the deadliest with some of the city’s hardest-hit areas concentrated in Brooklyn and Queens.
Brooklyn Archdiocese and the US Agudath Israel have churches and synagogues in areas of two pre-defined areas with red and orange districts. The state had restricted attendance at houses of worship to 10 people in the red areas and 25 people in the orange regions. But these areas are now categorized as Yellow Zones with less restrictive rules and haven’t challenged any combination.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the court’s decision was “irrelevant to any practical effect” given that the restrictions had already been removed. Cuomo also said that the 5-4 ruling, with new Judge Amy Connie Barrett in the lead, is more about proving that the Supreme Court has changed its lines. But Demarzio disagreed.
Demarzio said: “(Cuomo) said that the court changed its decision because it is politically appropriate, and has nothing to do with that.” “The Supreme Court changes its position many times.”
Brooklyn Archdiocese churches were disproportionately damaged and incurred many losses at the start of the epidemic. Reverend Jorge Ortiz Garay, pastor of St. Brigade Church in Brooklyn, was the first Catholic cleric in the United States to die from the Coronavirus.. By July, Saint Bartholomew’s Roman Catholic Church in Queens reported that at least 74 parishioners had died from COVID-19..
Demarzio said that Ortiz Garay and Reverend Giochino Basile, a Newark parish priest who was serving as pastor for St. Gabriel’s Church in East Elmhurst, contracted the virus before the rules were issued on how to protect against the epidemic.
So, you should not look at that. Later with the idea of St. Bartholomew, for example: This does not mean that they fell ill in the church. It means that they fell ill.
Demarzio said he closed churches 10 days before an order from the governor and postponed the inauguration a week after the order was lifted in July. “So, I think we were very careful …” he said. A spokesperson for the Brooklyn Archdiocese has said that Saint Bartholomew has not reported any new deaths since July, according to a church pastor.
The 18-point precautions in churches in Brooklyn and Queens under parish authority include sterilizing churches regularly, requiring everyone to wear a mask for the entire mass and maintaining social distancing. Clergymen must also cleanse their hands before mass, while worshipers cannot exchange peace or hold their hands while reciting the Lord’s Prayer, and communion must be offered in the hand. DiMarzio also said that all audiences are streamed live and personal services have been restricted to around 50% capacity.
“Look, we were the epicenter of the earthquake at the start of this. Now, we are the best. From the worst, we have become the best because of the restrictions and the way people have followed,” he said, describing the rules promulgated by Como as being overtly restrictive.
“Ten to 25 people in churches with 500 and 1,000 people, that’s the crux of it, because we were categorized as non-essential. So, we were set up with theaters and bowling alleys and other things that were entertaining, not as essential as a church.”
Dimarzio expects the Christmas season to be challenging but essential for believers after a long pandemic.
“People want to go to Mass on Christmas. Children need to see and act on Christmas, sometimes in different churches. So, we are trying to prepare for that again safely.
The Associated Press Religious Coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through the Religion News Foundation. The AP is solely responsible for this content.