Around New England

Churches Are Not To Re-Open in Phase One, Rhode Island Governor Says

May 9, 2020

Retail shops the state considers non-essential were allowed to re-open for business in Rhode Island on Saturday, May 9, but not churches.

Churches did not make the cut for Phase One of Rhode Island’s re-opening during the coronavirus emergency.

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo would not commit to when or how she might allow churches to re-open during a coronavirus press conference late this week.

Raimondo has issued an executive order limiting gatherings to five people “in any public or private space” — including any “place of worship.” That’s half the 10-person limit in Massachusetts that Governor Charlie Baker has set (also by executive order).

The Rhode Island governor fielded a question about churches from conservative talk show host John DePetro during her coronavirus press conference on Thursday, May 7.

(DePetro hosts a radio show on WNRI AM 1380 and FM 99.9 in Woonsocket, Rhode Island.)

Questions from reporters during the press conference were read out loud to the governor by a woman standing near her.

A transcript of the exchange about churches is below. It’s at 5:08 (and -8:20) of the video.


Question Reader:  John DePetro asks:  Can churches open Sunday for Mass on Mother’s Day? Why not let churches conduct Mass outside or by using spacing in the pews?

Why don’t you consider church an essential business?  And lastly:  Faith is not a social gathering.


Governor Gina Raimondo:  Yeah. So it’s a good question. Like I said, we’ve been talking an awful lot to all faith leaders.

I’ve decided to go for now with the five, five people. So, you can have five people in a church or synagogue, and broadcast that. You can certainly do – lots of folks are doing the drive-through services. And something more will come soon.

But, everything I know says take it slow. It is so much better to go slow and gear up than to go too fast and pull back.

So if that means waiting another couple of weeks, as hard as that is, I have decided, in consultation with many leaders of faith communities, that that’s probably the right way to go.


Bishop Thomas Tobin, the Roman Catholic bishop of Providence, a diocese that includes all of Rhode Island, has said he hopes to re-open churches by Sunday, May 31, which is the feast of Pentecost, often called the birthday of the Christian Church.