Places of worship in RI prepare to reopen for in-person services

Coronavirus

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Gov. Gina Raimondo recently announced that she plans to allow places of worship to reopen for in-person services by the end of May, which is welcome news to religious leaders across the state.

Father Robert Marciano of St. Kevin’s Church in Warwick tells Eyewitness News that while religious services should’ve always been considered essential, reopening them now is “better late than never.”

Raimondo hopes to allow all places of worship to reopen on May 30. Marciano said he’s been live-streaming his services since the pandemic began, with as many as 900 parishioners tuning in each weekend.

“It’s the Feast of Pentecost, which is the descent of the holy spirit, so it’s very appropriate that we would actually begin masses on that weekend,” Marciano said.

He said the pandemic has not only forced his parishioners to miss weekly mass, but they’ve also had to forgo first communions, baptisms and confirmations.

“Faith and churches are essential to people’s health, mind, body and spirit,” Marciano said. “I’ve been waiting for this announcement for a while, considering that Lowe’s, Walmart, Home Depot – they’re all open. And I understand their building is big, but my building is big too.”

Although he says he is waiting for more guidelines from the state, he said he plans to abide by social distancing mandates and will remove anyone who doesn’t comply.

“We have smart people here in the parish, I’m thinking about taping off every other pew,” Marciano said. “People will figure it out, we’re not going to remind people by confronting them if they’re not 6 feet apart if they don’t come in with a mask. I’m not confronting them that’s for sure, because there could be health reasons why they’re not wearing one. There are also a lot of elderly.”

Marciano said he will continue to live stream services for those who don’t feel comfortable returning in person, but no matter what, he has faith it will all work out.

“Social distancing is not something God invented,” Marciano said. “Social distancing does not take place in heaven – it’s all about hugs.”

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