RE: ADVISORY AFTER THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT’S THIRD DECLARATION OF A STATE OF EMERGENCY
Dear brothers and sisters in the Archdiocese of Tokyo:
RE: ADVISORY AFTER THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT’S THIRD DECLARATION OF A STATE OF EMERGENCY
In response to the recent increase in the number of COVID-19 infections, the government issued a third declaration of a state of emergency on 23rd April for a specific region. It was reported that Tokyo is among those included in the prescribed area, and the period will be from 25th April to 11th May. Concerning Chiba prefecture, the implementation of stricter COVID-19 countermeasures will continue until 11th May as originally planned.
Since 30th January last year, 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. During the first emergency declaration, church activities were suspended including public masses. However, on the second emergency declaration issued early this year, the celebration of public masses was continued while carefully implementing precautionary measures against COVID-19 infections. To date, we have received reports of parishioners who have been infected or have died due to COVID-19, but none of them have been reported as originating from Church activities.
However, in an NHK report, Economic Revitalization Minister Nishimura said, “New cases of people testing positive for COVID-19 continue to increase also in Tokyo, and the possibility of the infection spreading rapidly in May due to the explosive surge in the mutant variants is a serious concern. Unless we take stronger measures, we cannot contain these variants that are more contagious.” Therefore, it is also essential for the Church to be even more careful in implementing the precautionary measures.
Basically, we will continue the implementation of “STAGE 3 PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES AS OF APRIL 12, 2021.” However, please take note of the following points.
1: Please refrain from traveling to other prefectures. Kindly avoid crossing prefectural borders in going to the parish where you are registered. However, this does not apply to areas that are obviously adjacent to each other, such as places that could be reached by foot.
2: While under the state of emergency, study groups, meetings and all activities other than the holy mass must be either cancelled or conducted online.
3: While inside the Church, if a distance of at least 1 meter, or preferably two meters, from each other cannot be kept (from the person in front and back, to the left and to the right), public masses will not be allowed. Moreover, if proper ventilation cannot be maintained during the celebration of the Holy Mass due to the structure of the church building, public masses will not be allowed
4: When leaving the Church premises such as after the Holy Mass, kindly avoid making “close contact” by taking measures such as exiting in an orderly manner and avoiding greetings and conversations while within the Church premises.
5: When participating in the Holy Mass, please refrain from verbalizing all together such as singing hymns and reciting prayers in one voice.
As much as possible, either have an organist play the hymns solo, or have a cantor singing alone using the microphone. Also, kindly ensure that everyone wears a face mask, and that includes the congregation, the mass servers, the mass presider, and the choir.
6: Everyone must sanitize their hands before receiving Holy Communion.
7: Inasmuch as there will be some difficulties in imposing age restrictions, I reiterate that the age limit will not be implemented this time. However, for those who are above 75 years old and for those with chronic illness, as much as possible kindly pray at home. If you have an elderly person in your family, or if your family feels anxious about participating in the Holy Mass for any other reason, kindly pray at home.
In consideration of such circumstances of the faithful, should the parish be unable to secure enough people who will properly serve in the implementation of the precautionary measures, please do not hesitate to consider suspending public masses.
Please take note that for the time being, all the faithful of the Tokyo Archdiocese are dispensed from their obligation to attend Sunday Masses.
It is unfortunate that we are once again under a state of emergency. Let us keep in mind that it is an important duty for us to protect not only our own lives but also to protect all those who have received God’s gift of life.
During these times of difficulties, let us put our trust in our Lord Jesus who promised us, “I am with you always, until the end of the age” and let us reaffirm our spiritual bond in the one body centered on the Lord.
For your information, the Archbishop’s weekly message is delivered via internet every Saturday at 18:00 under the title of “Weekly Archbishop” serving as an aid to “Spiritual Communion.” Kindly take advantage of this opportunity. Also, there are some churches such as Sekiguchi Church and Kojimachi Church that are livestreaming the Sunday Mass online. Please check them as well. I would like to ask for your active cooperation in every parish to assist those who are not familiar with handling devices such as computers and smartphones so that they may be able to join the masses online as well.
Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi, SVD
Archbishop of Tokyo
＜REFERENCE＞ There are some slight changes. The revised portions are underlined.
STAGE 3 PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES AS OF APRIL 23, 2021
1: In order to keep a distance of at least one meter, or 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. Moreover, if proper ventilation cannot be maintained during the celebration of the Holy Mass due to the structure of the church building, 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. For the time being, please refrain from “greetings” and “conversations” while inside the Church or around the premises.
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: Please refrain from traveling to other prefectures. Kindly avoid crossing prefectural borders in going to the parish where you are registered. However, this does not apply to areas that are obviously adjacent to each other, such as places that could be reached by foot.
3: 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. For families having some concerns or anxieties, kindly pray at home. Please take note that all the faithful of the Tokyo Archdiocese are dispensed from their obligation to attend Sunday Masses.
4: 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.
5: 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 basically 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. Even during these cases, please keep a distance of one to two meters from each other.
6: 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.
7: Except for the Holy Mass, and with the exception of essential meetings concerning parish management to the minimum, all activities where people meet face-to-face such as meetings, assemblies, gatherings, study groups among others should be cancelled or conducted online for the time being. Also, please refrain from eating and drinking in the church premises involving more than one person.
8: 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.