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LI houses of worship announce changes amid coronavirus pandemic 

St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre on Oct.

St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre on Oct. 5, 2017. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Catholic and Episcopal churches, mosques and synagogues across Long Island announced Friday they would shut down weekend religious services to try to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Roman Catholics do not have to attend Mass for the next three weekends, the Diocese of Rockville Centre said.

Churches will remain open with Mass schedules generally unchanged, but the obligation to attend Mass has been temporarily lifted, diocesan spokesman Sean Dolan said.

Catholics who decide to attend Mass are under no obligation to receive Holy Communion in the next few weeks, Dolan said, adding that Catholics are only required to receive Holy Communion once a year.

The diocese urged everyone who was sick, elderly, or vulnerable because of a medical condition, to remain at home.

Dolan said Catholics could watch Mass on the Catholic Faith Network and online.

The diocese had already announced last week that the precious blood of Christ in the chalice would not be distributed at Masses, and the sign of peace — in which people typically shake hands, hug or kiss —  was temporarily suspended.

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The Episcopal Diocese of Long Island said Friday it was shutting down all parishes within its jurisdiction, which includes Suffolk, Nassau, Brooklyn and Queens, and suspending religious services for the next two weeks.

Churches will remain open for people to enter individually to pray, and there will be signs urging them to use hand sanitizers and take other steps to try to prevent the spread of any viruses, said Bishop Lawrence Provenzano.

Several mosques including two major ones canceled Friday afternoon prayers, the most important religious services of the week for Muslims.

The Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury and the Masjid Darul Quran mosque in Bay Shore, two of the largest and oldest mosques on Long Island, both canceled their 1 p.m. services.

“We have decided to suspend the Friday services to maintain the public health and safety protocols,” said Dr. Isma Chaudry, president of the Westbury mosque. “It’s important that we don’t put our community and our Nassau County communities in harm’s way.”

In a statement sent out to the faithful, mosque leaders asked them to say their prayers at home.

“This decision was not taken lightly, but was taken with an abundance of precaution in mind for the well-being of our community,” the statement said.

 Dr. Hafiz Rehman, one of the leaders of the Bay Shore mosque, said in a statement to members, “The COVID-19 situation around the world is rapidly getting worse and some extraordinary measures are being taken to restrict the spread of the lethal virus.” 

Some synagogues canceled Shabbat services Friday night and Saturday, and instructed members to pray at home.

In Oceanside, West Hempstead, Cedarhurst and Great Neck, all Orthodox synagogues canceled services, said Rabbi Tuvia Teldon, head of the Orthodox Chabad movement on Long Island.

In the heavily Orthodox Jewish Five Towns area, some temples remained open, and others closed, Teldon said.

 At Temple Israel, a Reform temple in Lawrence, leaders said they were planning to cut services down to 30 minutes from the typical hour Friday night, and hold them earlier, at 7 p.m. instead of 8 p.m.

But then Nassau County Executive Laura Curran declared a state of emergency for the county late Friday morning, and the synagogue decided to cancel the services outright, said Rabbi Jay Rosenbaum.

“The central mandate of Judaism … of safeguarding health and life dictated that we curtail services,” Rosenbaum said.

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