Re: Relaxation of precautionary measures DURING the SEASON OF Advent AND BEYOND

Dear brothers and sisters in the Archdiocese of Tokyo:

Re: Relaxation of precautionary measures DURING the SEASON OF Advent AND BEYOND

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all of you for your cooperation in our precautionary measures against COVID-19 infection, particularly in the parishes within the Archdiocese of Tokyo. Since the lifting of the emergency declaration at the end of September, the number of people reported daily testing positive for the coronavirus has significantly decreased, and with the constantly high vaccination rate, the government has also considered measures to ease the restrictions on movements of people.

At the same time, the experts have called attention to the fact that there may be another surge of infection in the future, and it will still be necessary for us to take careful preventive measures to protect life, such as the government considering a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

In the Archdiocese of Tokyo, based on the condition that the current infection situation will not change significantly or if the circumstances improve, the current Stage 3 precautionary measures will be relaxed to some extent from the first Sunday of Advent. Please refer to the attached document and implement suitable measures against COVID-19 infection in your communities such as in the parishes.

Moreover, in order to avoid “close-contact with other people,” it has been specified to keep a distance of at least one meter from each other. However, in its implementation, instead of strictly measuring “one meter” apart, please keep in mind that what is important is to ensure sufficient intervals that are suitable for the situation of the respective areas. Also, please allow families who live together, especially those who have small children with them, to sit close to each other.

During this difficult situation, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all our brothers and sisters for continuously cooperating in our precautionary measures against COVID-19. Keeping our commitment that “we will not be infected, nor will we allow others to be infected,” let us always keep in mind to act vigorously and take seriously our responsibility to protect not only our own lives but also the lives of others.

I would like to reiterate that 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. As we celebrate the season of Advent, let us walk together and renew our trust in the Lord who is always with us. 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>

STAGE 3 PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES AS OF NOVEMBER 28, 2021

1       In order to keep a distance of about one meter from each other while inside the Church, we have to limit the number of people who can enter the Church. Family members who live together may sit close to each other. If proper ventilation cannot be maintained due to the structure of the church building, or in the case when keeping a suitable distance between persons is not possible, gathering inside the Church for liturgical celebrations will not be allowed. After the Holy Mass, kindly exit in an orderly manner and refrain from “greetings” and “conversations” while inside the Church.

Kindly follow the instructions of your parish priest on the specific ways to implement the precautionary measures. 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. 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. 

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:       During the Holy Mass and in other gatherings, hymns may be sung as usual mainly by the choir, and prayers and responses may be recited all together. In case there is a wide space with proper ventilation, it is possible for everyone to sing along with the choir, but please make sure to wear face masks. 

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 (about half the capacity), proper ventilation and the length of time (maximum of about one hour and 30 minutes) is carefully considered. But please refrain from events that involve eating and drinking.

7:       For the sacrament of reconciliation, please ensure proper ventilation of the room. 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:    For priests and extraordinary ministers 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.  Please wear a face mask regardless of whether you are fully vaccinated or not. 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. Moreover, wearing non-woven masks is recommended.