ON CHURCH ACTIVITIES WITH COVID-19
13 July 2020
Dear brothers and sisters in the Archdiocese of Tokyo:
For four consecutive days until yesterday, more than 200 new cases of COVID-19 infections in Tokyo have been reported daily, and 119 cases today 13 July have been confirmed. At this point, there are no immediate plans to suspend church activities, inasmuch as the percentage of seriously ill patients remain low and there have been no reported fatalities due to COVID-19 since 24 June. We will continue our church activities carefully, observing the prescribed precautionary measures against infection.
However, in the future, if the number of infected persons continues to increase and the number of those seriously ill likewise increases, we might consider imposing stricter measures compared to our present response. Thus, we are keeping an eye on the situation, especially on the changes day by day. It is believed that COVID-19 will remain with us for a long period of time. Therefore, with this as our current reality in our society, we will have to carefully look for new ways to continue our church activities in the future.
I would like to reiterate that the Tokyo Archdiocese emphasizes three basic policies, as follows:
(For details, please take a look at the video in Japanese posted on the website of the Archdiocese. Click this link to the video)
1: Avoid the Three C’s (Closed spaces, Crowded places, Close-contact setting) in our church activities for as long as there are new cases of COVID-19 infections reported in the area of the Archdiocese.
2: Prevent infection. Prevent spreading infection to others.
3: Provide opportunities to participate in the celebration of the sacraments and promote spiritual unity.
This historic phenomenon of suspending church activities is experienced not only by the Tokyo Archdiocese but by churches around the world. On 21 June, we have resumed church activities and since then only four Sundays had passed. Although we have issued a general guideline for the whole Archdiocese, the situation is different for each parish, such that the measures taken by the various parishes are also different. We are faced with a situation that no one has ever experienced. Therefore, we cannot say absolutely that this one response will be the perfect one. For the time being we would have to continue our church activities dealing with the situation by trial and error. We have just to improve gradually in our response through our experiences over the next few Sundays.
After all, we are not seeing the end of the COVID-19 pandemic in the near future, and we must brace ourselves up to face this struggle for a long time. There may still be deficiencies in our current response to the situation. I sincerely ask for your patient endurance as we join our hands and hearts together in overcoming this situation.Exchange of ideas within the church is very much welcome, but I hope that we be prudent in our declarations refraining from acts such as those claiming that the church had completely changed.
Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi, SVD
Archbishop of Tokyo