Some Catholic parishes “may not be able to re-open” once public health crisis ends, Scharfenberger says

Local News

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – In mid-March, the coronavirus crisis forced the Diocese of Buffalo to hold masses without congregations present. The Most. Rev. Edward Schafenberger, Albany’s bishop who is temporarily in charge of Buffalo’s diocese, says some parishes may never hold a public mass again.

“It would depend upon the parish’s own unique circumstances,” Scharfenberger said Friday. “It’s not too dramatic to assume that some just may not be able to re-open again. There may need to be some sort of mergers.”

Many parish’s across the diocese have been holding mass via Facebook or Youtube over the past month. That means parishioners are unable to place money in the collection bins during mass. Scharfenberger was unable to provide specific information on parish finances across the diocese. But he provided estimates.

“We’re estimating it’s about 30 percent or 40 percent of what we usually receive,” Scharfenberger said. “Some (parishes) may be receiving as much as 90 percent, some as little as 10 (percent).

“We’re finding ways, if people do want to give. Sometimes people are putting envelopes in the rectory mailbox. There is the possibility of online giving.”

Last month, public officials, including President Donald Trump, suggested that gatherings should be limited to 10 people. Scharfenberger says once that number increases 100, public masses may be able to resume.

“We would be ready to have some churches open,” he said. “That might mean we would have to increase the number of masses.”

He noted historical circumstances have caused changes to the mass before, and it may happen again. Some things, such as the shaking of hands during the “sign of peace” may be a thing of the past.

“Any possibility of physical contact would not be something you’re likely to see for a long time, if ever,” Scharfenberger said.

Chris Horvatits is an award-winning anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of his work here.

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