7 April 2020
Dear brothers and sisters in the Archdiocese of Tokyo:
ADVISORY AFTER THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT’S
DECLARATION OF A STATE OF EMERGENCY
The Japanese government is to declare on 7 April a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The declaration will apply to prefectures including Tokyo and Chiba for a period of one month.
Based on the “Precautionary Measures Concerning COVID-19 from 30th March and Beyond” issued on 24 March, the Tokyo Archdiocese is committed that “we will not be infected, nor will we allow others to be infected,” and that we are here not only to protect ourselves but we continue to respond to the situation with compassion for others.
It is stated in the said document that the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday mass and the suspension of public masses will be “for the time being.” Unfortunately, this situation will continue until at least 9 May, when the emergency declaration is lifted. By the end of April, we will issue another advisory on precautionary measures concerning COVID-19 after Golden Week.
In consideration of the declaration of a state of emergency, kindly take note of the following changes in our precautionary measures:
1: On Other Activities Aside from the Mass
Except for urgent and important matters, regardless of the size, all other activities and meetings aside from the mass must be canceled or postponed to a date after the emergency declaration is lifted.
2: On the Sacrament of Reconciliation
For those who would like to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, kindly consult a priest. However, please refrain from using the conventional box-type, private room type “confessional.” Instead, kindly hold confessions in a reception room, with the priest and the penitent keeping a distance from each other, both of them wearing protective masks.
3: On the Sacrament of Baptism and the Joint Celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation
I am sorry to say that, except only for urgent cases, the celebration of baptisms scheduled for Easter will have to be postponed at a later date until the emergency declaration is lifted.
The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) of the Second Vatican Council states that, “catechumens who, moved by the Holy Spirit, seek with explicit intention to be incorporated into the Church are by that very intention joined with her. With love and solicitude Mother Church already embraces them as her own (14).”
Although it is unfortunate that the baptisms will be quite delayed, catechumens should keep in mind that they are already part of the Church community when they have an “explicit intention to be incorporated into the Church.”
Consequently, and in consideration of the period of studies and preparation for those who will receive the sacrament, I regret to inform that the joint celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation for the Archdiocese this year scheduled on 31 May will be canceled.
4: On Funerals
As a consequence of the widespread infections, we are putting at risk not only the priest and those attending the ceremony, but also the staff of the funeral services. It is recommended that the bereaved family thoroughly discuss the matter with the parish priest, considering the possibility of proceeding with the cremation first and having the funeral at a later date when the situation has settled down.
The Church gives priority to protecting the lives of every person and I believe this is important in responding to our present situation. As we face these difficulties which is extending for a long period of time, we experience life being threatened in various ways, such as the lives of those who are isolated, those who are financially deprived, those who are discriminated due to differences in the way of thinking or those who are involved in conflicts.
Our risen Lord, who conquered death, gives us hope for new life. The fact that we are in this difficult situation, gives us the strength to break the chains of loneliness, to rise up supporting each other, and to raise the light of hope in our society.
Let us not forget that even if we cannot gather together, we are united in faith and that we belong to a church community bound by the Spirit that cannot be seen. As we give top priority to protecting the life of all people, let us spend each day with kindness and compassion.
May we all have a blessed Easter!
Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi, SVD
Archbishop of Tokyo