Re: ADVISORY AFTER THE LIFTING OF STATE OF EMERGENCY
22 March 2021
Dear brothers and sisters in the Archdiocese of Tokyo:
Re: ADVISORY AFTER THE LIFTING OF STATE OF EMERGENCY
The state of emergency has been lifted on 22nd March. However, the situation remains unstable and it is important that we continue to act with caution.
In facing the current COVID-19 situation, the Archdiocese of Tokyo has made a commitment that “we will not be infected, nor will we allow others to be infected.” Thus, we have implemented various precautionary measures and have taken seriously our responsibility to protect the lives of one another as we prevent the spread of infection to protect not only our own lives but also the lives of others. To date, we have received reports of several parishioners who have died due to COVID-19 and of priests and parishioners infected by the coronavirus, but none of them have been reported as originating from Church activities. Notwithstanding, the vaccination program has just started and we still have to be very careful in our daily lives.
With the lifting of the state of emergency, basically there will be no major changes from the precautionary measures provided in the document released on 7th January this year entitled “ADVISORY AFTER THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT’S RE-DECLARATION OF A STATE OF EMERGENCY.” However, minor revisions will be made such as the following:
・ Except for the Holy Mass, all activities where people meet face-to-face such as meetings, assemblies, gatherings, study groups among others should as much as possible be conducted online. However, such activities may be allowed in the parish if the capacity of the venue, proper ventilation and the length of time (maximum of two hours) is carefully considered. But please refrain from events that involve eating and drinking.
Regarding the observance of the Holy Week which begins on 28th March, the Vatican has also issued instructions for this year concerning precautionary measures, and the guidelines for the liturgical celebrations in the Tokyo Archdiocese have already been disseminated to the parish priests. Last year, we were not able to have the Holy Week liturgy, but for this year, we are determined at this moment to have it as scheduled. However, please understand that there will be various special changes and restrictions in the liturgy such as omitting processions and the washing of the feet. Kindly follow the instructions of your parish priest concerning the matter.
Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi, SVD
Archbishop of Tokyo
＜REFERENCE＞ There are some slight changes. The revised portions are underlined.
STAGE 3 PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES AFTER MARCH 22, 2021
1: In order to keep a distance of at least one meter 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. Moreover, if proper ventilation cannot be maintained during the celebration of the Holy Mass, gathering inside the Church for liturgical celebrations will not be allowed. After the Holy Mass, kindly exit in an orderly manner and avoid conversations while inside the Church.
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 Sunday Masses.
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” and from “reciting the prayers all together” at Holy Mass and at gatherings. It is however possible to have an organist playing the hymns, a cantor singing alone using the microphone, or in case there is a wide space with proper ventilation, singing in a choir with a very limited number of members.
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, and everyone must sanitize their hands 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 where people meet face-to-face such as meetings, assemblies, gatherings, study groups among others should as much as possible be conducted online. However, such activities may be allowed in the parish if the capacity of the venue, proper ventilation and the length of time (maximum of two hours) is carefully considered. But please refrain from events that involve eating and drinking.
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 2020 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.