Bells of Hope Will Sound Tomorrow for the Victims of Coronavirus 

Bells of Hope Will Sound Tomorrow for the Victims of Coronavirus 
Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Prospect Heights. Courtesy of John Quaglione.

Parishes across Brooklyn and Queens will toll their bells tomorrow to unite all faiths and nationalities in hope, prayer, and remembrance of those who have passed.

The initiative, called Bells of Hope, was created by the Most Reverend Nicholas DiMarzio, Bishop of Brooklyn. Starting tomorrow and for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, all Catholic Churches in Brooklyn and Queens will ring their bells daily at exactly 3 pm, the time that Christ was believed to have died on the cross.

“The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the greatest instance of love and hope in the history of the world,” the Reverend said in a press release.

“In these truly uncertain times, we turn to the Lord ever mindful of this truth, and the power of prayer, to sustain us. We may or may not know for whom these bells will toll, however, we will pause to honor those who are suffering, who have died, and give thanks to God for those putting their lives at risk for others.”

Father Jorge Ortiz-Garay, pastor of St. Brigid’s parish in Wyckoff Heights, Bushwick, passed away on March 27th. He’s believed to be the first U.S. priest to die as a result of the coronavirus.

Bells are usually tolled during funeral masses, but this year they’ll toll for the victims of the pandemic, and for those who are suffering alone. That message of hope is especially salient for the parishioners of Brooklyn and Queens, who have been especially hard hit, explained Msgr. Kieran E. Harrington, the Vicar for Communications for the Diocese of Brooklyn. Tragically, many of the victims are clustered in the neighborhood of Corona, Queens, where many poor families live in close quarters, Msgr. Harrington said.

“Whether you are a Jew, or a Muslim, or a Christian, any person of faith is really seeking to say ‘how do we make sense of this great evil?’”

The bells will bring hope and unity even to those who have already passed away, Msgr. Harrington said. While Catholics must be anointed by a priest before they die, hospitals have restricted the practice. One of Msgr. Harrington’s parishioners died recently, and he was unable to anoint her. “This is a particularly disjointed experience for folks, and so that’s why we want to let people know that they are not by themselves,” he said. Even if one does not believe in God at all, Msgr. Harrington said, we’re still connected to one another.

The bells will toll even on Good Friday this year. Typically, church bells are silent from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday, when they’re rung to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. A typically joyous holiday, Easter will be bittersweet this year, Msgr. Harrington said.

Bells of Hope will also be a message to undocumented immigrants dying alone, Msgr. Harrington said. “We believe that in passing through this virus in death, they enter into being citizens of heaven.”

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