The Bishop of Providence clarified Thursday that despite Rhode Island’s re-imposed mask mandate, people will be permitted to attend Mass if they do not have a mask.

“As it has from the beginning of the pandemic, the Diocese of Providence will continue to cooperate fully with state directives regarding the response to the pandemic,” said a Dec. 16 statement from Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence.

Tobin added that while he encouraged Catholics within the diocese to follow state guidelines, “no individual should be turned away from Mass or singled out if they choose to not wear a mask.”

“Such individuals may have good and substantive reasons for not doing so,” he said. “In addition, in keeping with our approved policies, liturgical ministers (e.g. priests, deacons, ministers of Holy Communion, altar servers, cantors, choir members) are not expected to wear masks while actively participating in the liturgy.”

Gov. Dan McKee (D) of Rhode Island issued an executive order Dec. 16 requiring that “indoor venues with a capacity of 250 or more persons shall require any person in their indoor premises to cover their mouth and nose with a mask or face covering ("masking"), regardless of vaccination status.”

Smaller venues can require patrons either to show proof of vaccination or wear a mask. The order went into effect Dec. 20.

Tobin said he is “strongly” urging all Catholics within the diocese “to receive approved vaccines as soon as they are eligible to do so.”

“Being vaccinated is a commitment to the common good, an act of charity for our brothers and sisters, and an expression of our respect for the dignity of human life,” he said.

“As we prepare to celebrate the special hope and joy of the Christmas Season, let us renew our fervent prayers that Almighty God will lift this terrible pandemic from our midst and will give healing, comfort and peace to all.”

Nearly 3,000 people in Rhode Island have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began in March 2020. The state’s population is slightly over 1 million.