Bishop: RI Catholics are permitted to skip Mass for now due to COVID-19

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Bishop Thomas Tobin has announced Catholics in the Diocese of Providence are excused from their usual obligation to attend Sunday Mass for the rest of the month due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The bishop’s dispensation extends from this weekend’s Masses through Sunday, March 29, according to a statement issued Thursday. Masses will continue to be celebrated. Bishops in other parts of the country have also begun to make similar moves.

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Diocesan officials emphasized that parishioners who are 66 and older, or have underlying health conditions, are especially encouraged to stay home due to the risk they face.

The diocese said pastors may want to adjust parish schedules as well, particularly when it comes to funerals and weddings. “To the extent possible, churches should remain open during the day for personal prayer, small group gatherings, devotions, and visits to the Blessed Sacrament,” the statement said.

If large social events are scheduled in a parish, a priest should evaluate whether they should proceed onward, or be postponed, in keeping with related directives from the R.I. Department of Health.

Both Tobin and Bishop Robert Evans may need to limit their own public schedules, the diocese said.

The faithful are also being asked to pray for everyone affected by the pandemic, including victims, families, and caregivers.

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