Re: EASING OF RESTRICTIONS ON CHURCH ACTIVITIES
14 September 2020
Dear brothers and sisters in the Archdiocese of Tokyo:
Re: EASING OF RESTRICTIONS ON CHURCH ACTIVITIES
As the effect of COVID-19 in the affairs of our society continues, it is deemed necessary that we carry on with taking precautionary measures to protect all life.
In the Tokyo Archdiocese, we started with preventive measures against COVID-19 infections as early as the end of January. This was followed by the suspension of public masses from February 27. Subsequently on June 21, mass celebrations in public were resumed, but with restrictions such as avoiding the “Three C’s” (Closed spaces, Crowded places, Close-contact setting) and limiting the number of people. It was an unprecedented request to all of you for patient endurance, and that meant complying with the precautionary measures against COVID-19 and age restrictions among other things. It is because of the many people who compassionately understand the need for such active response in order to protect all life, who lovingly sacrifice their own desires for the good of all, who patiently cooperate during this difficult time, that the Church thus far has not been a place of outbreaks and clusters of COVID-19. Although it cannot be simply concluded, this is a proof of the positive impact of the precautionary measures currently being implemented by the Archdiocese of Tokyo. But above all, I believe this will not be possible without your active and faithful response to the implementation of these measures. My heartfelt gratitude to all of you, brothers and sisters in the Archdiocese, for your cooperation.
It will be almost three months since we shifted our response to Stage 3 in resuming Church activities. Several actions were taken with flexibility in response to the actual situation, including various measures appropriate to each parish. To date, we have requested those with chronic illnesses, and especially those who are 75 years old and older, to refrain from participating in the Holy Mass and to pray at home. Considering the present situation and with the community keeping on with the responsible implementation of the precautionary measures in the Church, it has been decided that the elderly people may safely participate in the Holy Mass.
For the moment, we will remain in Stage 3. However, the age limit of 75 years old will not be enforced anymore after September 19.
However, please be aware that the high risk of serious infection for elderly people and those with chronic illness has not changed. Therefore, for those who worry about their health, or those who are not feeling well, or those who are worried about going out, kindly stay at home and offer your prayers. Please take note that the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass will remain in effect for all the faithful in the Tokyo Archdiocese.
Please keep in mind that even those who are staying at home are spiritually united with all of us in the Church. Moreover, should anyone desire a pastoral visit from a priest, please feel free to consult your parish priest.
Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi, SVD
Archbishop of Tokyo
＜REFERENCE＞ There are some slight changes. The revisions are underlined.
STAGE 3 PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES AFTER SEPTEMBER 19, 2020
1: In order to keep a distance of 1.5 to 2 meters from each other while inside the Church, we have to limit the number of people who can enter the Church. If this is not possible, gathering inside the Church for liturgical celebrations will not be allowed.
Kindly follow the instructions of your parish priest on the specific ways to ensure social distancing inside the Church. Please observe the limit in the number of people allowed to enter. Also, please refrain from going out in search of another Church where the Holy Mass is celebrated. Just follow the instructions in the Church where you belong to or in the community where you are part of.
2: For the elderly and those with chronic illness, kindly assess your physical condition. Should there be any concerns, please give priority to protecting all life and stay at home. The age limit will not be enforced in the Church.
Please take note that all the faithful of the Tokyo Archdiocese are dispensed from their obligation to attend Sunday Mass.
3: As we had been doing since the beginning from 31st January, let us continue to take proper precautionary measures against COVID-19 such as hand disinfection, providing sufficient ventilation, with everyone wearing face masks for the time being.
4: For the moment, please refrain from “singing all together” at Holy Mass and at gatherings. It is however possible to have an organist playing the hymns, a cantor singing alone from a distance, or a small group of people such as the Church choir singing (only if there is a large space).
5: In the meantime, there will be no offertory procession at the Holy Mass. Also, for the time being, please receive Holy Communion by hand that has been disinfected immediately before reception. For those who would like to receive Holy Communion by mouth, in order to avoid infection of the fingers of the priest during distribution, kindly consult the parish priest beforehand.
6: Activities other than the Holy Mass such as meetings may be held if the number of participants is about half of the normal room capacity and the precautionary measures described in 3 above are observed, while maintaining distance from each other and keeping the gathering as short as possible.
Note: Priests who are above 75 years old may preside in the celebration of the Holy Mass and distribute Holy Communion. In distributing the sacred host, kindly make sure that hands are disinfected and a face mask is worn. The parish priest may ask some parishioners to serve as “extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion” should he find it necessary.