PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Starting on Tuesday, Bishop Thomas Tobin announced the celebration of all public Masses and other liturgical services will be suspended in the Diocese of Providence until further notice.
Tobin said the celebration of funerals and weddings may continue but must be celebrated without Mass using approved liturgical forms.
“Every effort should be made to limit the size of the congregation to necessary participants only and the health precautions previously announced by the Diocese of Providence and the State of Rhode Island should be carefully followed,” Tobin said.
Tobin added that churches, to the extent possible, should remain open during the day for personal prayer, devotions and visits to the Blessed Sacrament. Individual confessions may also be heard during this time.
“This is an exceedingly difficult and painful decision, but it is necessitated by our commitment to promote the health and well-being of our brothers and sisters, especially the frail and the elderly,” he said. “That is a moral priority we should all share.”
Later on Monday, Bishop Edgar da Cunha of the Fall River Diocese made a similar announcement, saying all public Masses and other liturgical services have been suspended until further notice. This includes Masses of First Holy Communion and Confirmation but excludes weddings and funerals, however, attendance must be limited to immediate family members and is not to exceed 10 people.
Da Cunha asked that churches be open for a limited time during the day to allow people to visit for private prayer. He also encouraged Catholics to pray at home and seek out other opportunities to participate in Masses such as on television or online.
“The Mass is our central act of worship, the source and summit of our Catholic faith, and it goes without saying that this difficult decision was not made lightly,” he said in a statement. “It was done after prayerful consideration of the critical health threat that now confronts us. The gravity of it demands that we take whatever action is needed, despite the hardship, for the good of the protection of all especially those who are most vulnerable at this time.”
“Please join me in prayer in these challenging days for all who are impacted by COVID-19 and in a special way for those who are sick and for those who work to combat the disease,” da Cunha added.