NY priest on coronavirus entrance strains with embattled congregation

NEW YORK — Raul Luis López by no means had the possibility to say goodbye.

López was hospitalized for COVID-19 on April three earlier than succumbing almost three weeks later. The 39-year-old native of Oaxaca, Mexico, suffered from diabetes which worsened his sickness. The day he left for therapy was the final time his spouse, Sara Cruz, noticed him.

Now López’s household, clad in surgical masks and gloves, was gathered within the widow’s lounge within the Corona neighborhood of Queens, New York, round a black field of his cremated stays. A rendering of the Virgin of Guadalupe, patroness of Mexico and the Americas, watched over his ashes on a desk beside flowers and prayer candles.

The Rev. Fabian Arias, a Catholic priest from Buenos Aires, Argentina, is the pastor of Iglesia de Sion, a congregation with a mission relationship alongside Saint Peter’s Church in Manhattan, and has carried out funeral providers 14 occasions within the final two months. Saturday’s service for López was the primary he’s been capable of carry out in a non-public residence.

“Ninety-nine p.c of funeral properties are usually not receiving folks for non secular ceremonies; they are saying ‘no,’ ” mentioned Arias “They are going to take your physique and supply cremation.”

The monetary prices of providers, already tough for working-class households to afford, are compounded by the historic demise toll thrusting funeral properties throughout the town into overcapacity. Most have ended conventional non secular providers and household gatherings, together with cemetery burials.

“Folks don’t have the power to pay,” mentioned Arias. “And once they have the chance for a service, they abuse the group. They are saying, ‘You pay $10,000, $15,000.’ ”

Taking pains to guard himself from the contagion with private protecting tools and hand sanitizers, he’s led into the home on a quiet avenue within the closely Latino neighborhood. Almost a dozen relations inside wait to greet him, together with López’s cousin Miguel Hernandez Gomez.

“The funeral properties didn’t give us any selection,” mentioned Gomez. “If we had extra selection, we might have performed higher for him.”

López, who labored within the supply enterprise, got here to america 20 years in the past and settled in New York 9 years previous to his demise. Described as a sort man dedicated to his fellow parishioners, his loss pains household past the town’s borders.

“We’re planning to ship him to Mexico however proper now we don’t have worldwide flights,” mentioned Gomez. “We’re making an attempt to get him to our city, for his mother, his dad, who’re nonetheless alive in Mexico. He’s our household however he belongs to them, to his dad and mom.”

Regardless of the dangers, Arias is undaunted, trusting in God and taking nice care to reduce transmission dangers.

“It’s very onerous for our group,” mentioned Arias. “For all Latinos, when our folks die, they obtain a blessing. We are saying the final goodbye and pray collectively. It’s essential for us.”

When the service ended, the household, nonetheless sporting masks, moved to the kitchen to eat a meal; they unfold out as a lot as potential.

“After this service, I really feel a lot, significantly better and relieved that the spirit of Raul is launched into God’s palms,” mentioned Cruz. “Everyone is afraid, not just for ourselves, however for our group and particularly Father Fabian and all of the providers he’s doing.”

“It’s very harmful for him. However he’s right here for us.”

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