Re: Advent amid rising COVID-19 infections
Dear brothers and sisters in the Archdiocese of Tokyo:
Re: Advent amid rising COVID-19 infections
We have entered the season of Advent as we approach the end of the year 2020 which has been greatly affected by COVID-19 infections.
On 12th October, I have already requested your cooperation to take precautionary measures in the document “Guidelines on Church Activities during the Christmas and New Year Season.” However, in the past few days, the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 in the Archdiocese, especially in Tokyo, has increased rapidly, indicating that the third wave has arrived.
Depending on the changes in the situation in the future, we cannot deny the possibility of suspending once again the celebration of public masses. However, we recommend instead the implementation of precautionary measures that would assure everyone to participate in the Holy Mass as much as possible with peace of mind. We have received reports that there are places where the basic precautionary measures are being neglected as the battle against COVID-19 infection is prolonged. Therefore, concerning our current response to the situation, let us put emphasis on the following points, as we make some slight changes in our efforts. Please refer to the attachment for the entire precautionary measures during this time.
1: For the time being, all activities in the church such as meetings, assemblies, gatherings, study groups, among others should be canceled or held online, with the exception only of meetings necessary for parish management. However, liturgical celebrations such as the Holy Mass will continue to be held.
2: Let us review the implementation of the basic precautionary measures against COVID-19, such as hand disinfection, wearing of face mask, and social distance.
3: Elderly people and those with chronic illness are advised as much as possible to pray at home. The age limit in mass participation however will not be imposed.
For your information, the mass of the Archbishop on Christmas eve (Dec 24th 22:00), Christmas day (Dec 25th 10:00), and New Year’s Day (Jan 1st 00:00) will be live streamed from the St. Mary’s Cathedral Tokyo. In addition, the message of the Archbishop is delivered online every Saturday at 18:00 under the title of “Weekly Archbishop”.
During these times when it is difficult to gather together, let us put our trust in our Lord Jesus who promised “I am with you always, until the end of the age” and reaffirm our spiritual bond in the one body centered on the Lord.
Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi, SVD
Archbishop of Tokyo
＜REFERENCE＞ There are some slight changes. The revised portions are underlined.
STAGE 3 Precautionary Measures during 2020 Advent, Christmas and the New Year
1: In order to keep a distance of at least one meter, preferably two 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. Family members who are currently living together may be allowed to be seated together. After the Holy Mass, conversations while in the premises of the Church must be kept as short as possible.
Kindly follow the instructions of your parish priest on the specific ways to ensure social distancing inside the Church. 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. The parish will keep a record of those who participated in the Holy Mass in order to respond to the request of the public health department in the event of a confirmed case of COVID-19 infection. Careful handling of the personal information will be observed and proper discarding will be made later.
2: For the elderly and those with chronic illness, as much as possible kindly pray at home. However, 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 Mass on Sundays, as well as on holy days of obligation (Feast of the Nativity of the Lord and the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God).
3: As we had been doing since the beginning from 31st January 2020, 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 if a suitable distance from each other can be maintained singing in a choir (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 infecting other people with the fingers of the priest during distribution, kindly consult the parish priest beforehand.
6: Except for the Holy Mass, all activities in the church such as meetings, assemblies, gatherings, study groups, among others should be canceled or held online for the time being, with the exception only of meetings necessary for parish management.
7: For the sacrament of reconciliation, please take precautions to prevent droplet infection by using tools such as acrylic screens. Face shields are not a substitute for face masks. Even if you are using a face shield, please use also a face mask with it. Please take note that the notice released on 26th March regarding “The Message from the Apostolic Penitentiary on the Sacrament of Reconciliation and on Granting of Special Indulgence” is still valid.
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.