Two church buildings lose over 100 parishioners to COVID-19
Two churches serving New York's Latino congregation mourn the death of over 100 parishioners who come together with COVID-19.
A Lutheran church in Manhattan lost nearly 40 of the 400 parishioners due to the virus. St. Peter's Church in Midtown Manhattan serves Hispanic immigrants across the city.
The Saint Bartholomew Catholic Church in Queens has lost more than 63 parishioners. The pastor of the church, Rev. Rick Beuther, fears that the death toll in his congregation could be dozens. The church was usually full of 5,500 people who attended masses.
"The last eight or ten weeks have been a real tsunami, a disaster for us here, between illness, death, unemployment and the lack of undocumented services," Beuther told Fox News.
Many members of both communities are reported to live in overcrowded homes, making isolation and social detachment difficult and putting them at higher risk of exposure to the virus.
"It was a lot of stress," said Beuther. "Anyone who coughed or sneezed in an apartment was afraid that the rest of the group would ask them to go."
Both churches actively support needy parishioners with nutritional programs.
Rev. Fabián Arias said: "It is very difficult for our community. For all Latinos, our people receive a blessing when they die. We say goodbye and pray together for the last time. It is very important for us."
According to the regional Lutheran Bishop Paul Egensteiner, the challenge in the Peterskirche is great due to the large number of undocumented immigrants. "Many of them are reluctant to go to the hospital and wonder if they will be treated and deported," he said.
Rev. Arias has held funerals for the victims and continues to provide online services from his home in the Bronx while the St. Peter church building remains closed. Some community members want to resume personal service, but he says it is too early and too dangerous. "It is not what God would want," he said. "God wants to protect life."