Manhattan’s majestic St. Patrick’s Cathedral has canceled Mass — as the NY Archdiocese shuts down Sunday services at all of its 296 parishes — indefinitely due to coronavirus concerns.
The Archdiocese announced Saturday that it is canceling, until further notice, all Masses in its jurisdiction — not only in Manhattan, where the beloved cathedral’s twin limestone spires soar over Fifth Avenue, but in The Bronx, Staten Island, Westchester, Putnam, Orange, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster and Dutchess counties.
The decision in the middle of the church’s most solemn season, Lent, comes “in light of the continued concern surrounding the coronavirus, and the advice of medical experts,” the Archdiocese’s announcement said.
“Churches will, however, remain open for private prayer,” the Archdiocese’s announcement said, though church officials did not address how the crowds of tourists who flock to St. Patrick’s will be managed.
Despite Saturday’s sunny, springlike weather, fewer than 30 people were visiting the cathedral mid-afternoon; 20 of them were praying quietly inside.
“It’s very slow; people are afraid of the corona,” said the corner hot dog vendor, Iman Ibrahim, 42, noting that the cathedral is typically thronged on weekends.
“If you’re in for prayer they will let you in; they just give you a wipie,” said Carina Papili, who was visiting from Miami. She was startled to see that there was no holy water being dispensed at the entrance.
“They told us to wipe our hands, wipe our hands, and there is no holy water,” she said. “I was a little taken aback. As a Catholic, that’s what you’re used to — but I understand.”
The cathedral will live-stream all Masses and will remain open for public prayer, but will not be celebrating Mass for the public beginning this weekend as part of an Archdiocese-wide closing of churches to public gatherings, announced Saturday.
“There is a part of my heart that says this can’t be good,” said Andreas Evers, 21, who lives in Harlem and was originally from Munich.
“I do not know what God wants us to do, do we pray at church or pray at home?”
Church officials said, “A private Mass will be celebrated in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, and will be available on many cable systems via the Catholic Faith Network and its website at www.catholicfaithnetwork.org, livestreamed on the Saint Patrick’s Cathedral website at www.saintpatrickscathedral.org/live, and broadcast on radio on The Catholic Channel of Sirius XM (Channel 129).”
The announcement added, “Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, urged the faithful to remember in their prayers all those whose lives have been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.”