PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Churches across Rhode Island will be allowed to reopen by the end of May, but in-person services won’t look quite the same as the state continues to grapple with the coronavirus.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence released a list of guidelines Wednesday for all churches to follow once they reopen, all of which are designed to keep parishioners safe.
“The re-opening of our churches for public worship, even with the necessary restrictions, is a moment of grace for all of us,” Bishop Thomas Tobin said, adding that the church’s priority is to protect the health of its people and clergy.
The diocese has outlined 10 new guidelines for celebrating Mass:
- Catholics will continue to be dispensed from Sunday Mass and Holy Day Masses.
Vulnerable populations, older parishioners and those with underlying health conditions are encouraged to stay home.
- Access to Mass will be limited.
The number of people who’ll be allowed in will be reduced to a percentage of the church’s capacity, and reservations or tickets may be necessary.
- Hand hygiene and masks are key.
Parishioners will be asked to use hand sanitizer upon entering the church and must wear a mask at all times — except when receiving Holy Communion.
- Pews will be sectioned off to maintain 6 feet between parishioners.
- Singing will be limited.
Raising your voice in song, unfortunately, creates more aerosolized particles, and an increased risk of possible COVID-19 infection. Hymnals will be removed from churches for the time being.
- Holy Communion will be given in a safe manner.
While priests or ministers will continue to wear masks while distributing communion, parishioners can remove them. Parishioners are also encouraged to receive Holy Communion on the hand rather than by mouth — or to refrain from Holy Communion altogether and make an act of spiritual communion instead.
- The church will be sanitized after every Mass.
- “Passing the basket” will be suspended; budget envelopes will be submitted to a secure receptacle before or after Mass.
- Parishioners are asked to avoid personal contact with anyone.
The sign of peace will be suspended for the time being.
- Those who are sick, even with mild symptoms, must stay home.
The diocese said the guidelines were created based upon suggestions from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. They were also written after several weeks of consultation with the Rhode Island Department of Health and the office of Governor Gina Raimondo.
While some church facilities have remained open for personal prayer only, all liturgical services were suspended back in March.