RE: ADVISORY AFTER THE LIFTING OF THE THIRD DECLARATION OF A STATE OF EMERGENCY

Dear brothers and sisters in the Archdiocese of Tokyo:

 RE: ADVISORY AFTER THE LIFTING OF THE THIRD DECLARATION OF A STATE OF EMERGENCY

 With the lifting of the third declaration of a state of emergency on 20th June, most of the areas under the jurisdiction of the Tokyo Archdiocese have been given a special designation that allows for intensive preventive measures against COVID-19 until 11th July.

The number of people testing positive for COVID-19 has to some extent been decreasing, and we have also seen the number of patients with severe symptoms decline. Although the vaccination program is progressing, it seems that it will take some time before the majority of people get vaccinated. In the church, we have received reports of parishioners especially those living in facilities for the elderly who have died due to COVID-19, as well as reports of priests and parishioners getting infected by the coronavirus. At present however, none of these have been reported as originating from church activities.

However, it has been reported that with the Olympic and Paralympic Games scheduled to be held soon, it is expected that many people will visit the Metropolitan area and increase the risk of spreading the so-called COVID-19 variants. Therefore, for the time being, the church will continue to implement the same precautionary measures as we have observed before.

With the lifting of the emergency declaration, we will basically move back to the “Stage 3 Precautionary Measures” described in the advisory “Government’s Announcement of Stricter COVID-19 Countermeasures” released on 12 April 2021.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all our brothers and sisters who, while transcending differences in thoughts and feelings, continue to cooperate in the precautionary measures against COVID-19 persisting for a long time. At the same time, I also feel the anxiety that has greatly affected the hearts of many, perhaps due to the continuing stress that is experienced every day.

During these difficult times, let us especially remember that we are strongly connected with each other as a church community united with a bond that cannot be seen. Moreover, let us remind ourselves that at the center is the Lord Jesus Himself who is with us always, until the end of the age, and who guides us along the way as He walks together with us. And let us continue to pray to God our Father for the guidance of the Holy Spirit so that we may be able to overcome this difficult time.

Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi, SVD
Archbishop of Tokyo

<REFERENCE> There are some slight changes. The revised portions are underlined.

STAGE 3 PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES AS OF JUNE 20, 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 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:  (deleted)

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 about one meter 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, 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.

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.