Rhode Island's top Catholic nixes drive-thru Palm Sunday palm distribution over coronavirus

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Catholic churches in Rhode Island are canceling plans to offer "drive-thru" pickup of blessed palms for Palm Sunday because of the state's coronavirus stay-at-home order, according to a report.

The churches came up with the idea after being forced to cancel traditional Palm Sunday, Easter and other Holy Week services due to the virus and the ban on large gatherings.

Historic St. Mary's Church in Newport said it would be offering palm branches blessed with holy water -- a Palm Sunday tradition in the Catholic Church -- in the parking lot with minimal contact, the news outlet Patch Cranston reported Saturday.

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St. Mary's Catholic Church in Newport, Rhode Island. <br>
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St. Mary's Catholic Church in Newport, Rhode Island. <br> ​​ (Google Maps)

But Rhode Island’s top Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin told pastors the state health department and Gov. Gina Raimondo had advised against it, according to Patch.

"Governor Raimondo and the Department of Health have directed that palm branches not be made available for individual pick-up at our churches this Sunday. I urge our parishes to comply," Tobin said in a statement.

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“More sad news. We cannot distribute Palm Branches this year due to the Governor’s stricter STAY-AT-HOME regulations,” the church’s pastor Rev. Kris von Maluski said on Facebook. “God bless, and hang in there!!!”

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"Once the packages of palms are opened they immediately begin to dry out. But there is always a plan B. We’ll make small crosses from the blessed palms and distribute them to households once we are all back to normal."

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He added, “God bless, and hang in there!!!”