RI gov hopefuls share their faiths ahead of Easter

Pope Francis celebrates the Chrism Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on April 17, 2014, at the start of the Easter celebrations. (photo: Andrew Medichini/AP)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – It’s Holy Week and Passover for Christians and Jews around the world, and among those commemorating the solemn religious periods will be all five major candidates for Rhode Island governor.

Among the Democrats, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras is a Roman Catholic and worships at Assumption Church, in the West End section of the city. “My faith is important to me and has sustained me through difficult times,” Taveras told WPRI.com.

His fellow Democrat, Treasurer Gina Raimondo, is also a Catholic. She worships at St Raymond’s Church on North Main Street in Providence, and had her wedding at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul downtown. Her campaign manager said Raimondo also considers her faith an important part of her life.

The third Democrat in the race, Clay Pell, is Episcopalian. His campaign said he worships at Grace Church, a historic Gothic Revival parish on Mathewson Street in Providence, though he and his wife Michelle Kwan got married last year at the First Unitarian Church of Providence on Benefit Street.

“My faith is deeply important to me,” Pell told WPRI.com in an email.

“A number of years ago, my minister suggested the habit of reading a chapter in Proverbs each day,” he said. “There are 31 chapters, one for each day of the month. Though I do miss some days, Proverbs continues to be a source of comfort to me, and it is the place I turn for wisdom when seas are rough.”

Among the Republicans, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung’s campaign said he is a non-denominational Christian who doesn’t belong to a specific church. “His parents let him choose what religion he wanted to follow,” Fung campaign manager Patrick Sweeney explained. As a child Fung also attended Saint Matthew School, a Catholic elementary school that closed in 2010, from grades 4 to 8.

Fung’s fellow Republican, Barrington businessman Ken Block, is Jewish, making him the only non-Christian among the major gubernatorial candidates. His campaign manager, Jeff Britt, said Block does not belong to a particular synagogue.

“I am a person who believes that moral values are important, and that a person should have a system of morals,” Block told WPRI.com. “A moral compass, compassion, service and philanthropy are all vitally important aspects of moral character for me.”

Rhode Island is the most Catholic state in the country, with 54% of adults residents describing themselves as Catholic in a 2013 Gallup poll. Just 20% of Rhode Islanders are Protestants, second only to Utah for the lowest share in the country, the poll found.

At the same time, however, more than one in three Rhode Islanders – 37% – told Gallup religion is not important in their lives and they seldom or never attend religious services.

Ted Nesi ( tnesi@wpri.com ) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com and writes the Nesi’s Notes blog. Follow him on Twitter: @tednesi

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