09 March 2020

Dear brothers and sisters in the Archdiocese of Tokyo:


The spread of COVID-19 continues to grow on a global scale, and a comprehensive response involving the entire society is urgently needed.

Even in the Church, public masses have been suspended one after another, not only in Japan but also in neighboring countries. And yesterday, it has been also announced in Italy that public masses have been suspended for the whole country.

During this difficult time, I would like us to reaffirm the power of prayer. Let us remember that even if we cannot gather together as usual on Sundays, every baptized person remains connected to each other as part of the one body of our Lord Jesus. Even if we offer prayers in our own respective places, they are offered not merely as personal prayers but are offered as prayers of the Church community.

As it is written in the Bible, we believe that “the fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful” (James 5,16). Therefore, there is no stopping us from praying just because of the outbreak of disease. While taking various practical measures to respond to COVID-19, there is no point in having a Church in this world unless we include our spiritual response in our fight against COVID-19. Let us persevere in prayer.

The suspension of masses, as mentioned above, is the suspension of the “public mass.” However, in parishes and convents in the Archdiocese, the daily mass is celebrated as usual by priests “not in public.” In fact, the mass has not disappeared from the communities of the Archdiocese. This is because, even if the priest offers the mass alone, all masses offered are by nature “universal (public).”

In the encyclical of Pope John Paul II entitled “Ecclesia de Eucharistia (On the Eucharist in its Relationship to the Church),” it is written that “(When the priest offers the mass,) it is not merely for his spiritual life, but it is also for the good of the Church and the whole world. This is because “even if the faithful cannot attend the celebration, the Eucharist is the act of Christ and the act of the Church.”

It is certainly of utmost importance for us in our life of faith to actually attend mass and receive holy communion. However, there are other traditions of the Church which we also must not forget, such as the Eucharistic Adoration, or the Spiritual Communion on occasions when we are not able to attend mass, as we offer our personal prayers with an ardent desire to be one with Christ.

In the Church, different people have different ideas about their understanding of faith expression and in the methods of prayer. It manifests the diversity of the Church and enriches spirituality.

During this difficult time, it is important to give top priority to protecting each other’s lives and to supporting each other with a heart full of compassion. In this rare occasion, we may have mixed thoughts based on our own faith experiences. In fact, it is during this time that we are reminded once again that we are Christians, invited to be one in the body of our Lord Jesus, and that even when we are praying alone, even when nobody sees us, we believe with deep conviction that we are always bound together as one community in the body of our Lord Jesus. We are not living this faith alone. We live this faith journeying together united with a bond that cannot be seen.

In addition, it will be irreverent to use this situation as an opportunity to limit our diversity as a Church. Likewise, giving top priority to one’s own thoughts would show a lack of brotherly compassion and would pose a threat of being separated from the unity in the one body of Christ. Now that we are facing difficulties, let us deepen our mutual trust as brothers and sisters, support each other and protect all lives.

Grounded on a faith that hopes for life, with compassion and love, let us pray to God our Father, through the intercession of our blessed Mother, that He may restore those who are infected by COVID-19 and take full control of the situation.

You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High,
who abide in the shade of the Almighty,
Say to the LORD, “My refuge and fortress,
my God in whom I trust.”
He will rescue you from the fowler’s snare,
from the destroying plague,
He will shelter you with his pinions,
and under his wings you may take refuge;
his faithfulness is a protecting shield.

(Psalm 91,1-4)

Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi, SVD
Archbishop of Tokyo