Guidelines on Church Activities during the Christmas and New Year Season
(Archdiocese of Tokyo)
Dear brothers and sisters:
The year 2020 has been greatly affected by COVID-19 and since it is already October, the preparations for Church activities for Christmas and the New Year have begun.
After lifting the suspension of public masses, we have constantly monitored the changes in the situation, and gradually eased the restrictions concerning Church activities. Unfortunately, it is deemed necessary to continue to observe precautionary measures in order to protect all life.
We are fully aware that many non-Christians participate in the Christmas and New Year masses every year, which gives us an opportunity for evangelization. It is with regret that this year however, it will be difficult to have as many people participating freely in the masses as we do every year, inasmuch as we take seriously our commitment “to protect ourselves from infection and to protect others from infection,” as well as to avoid the “Three C’s” (Closed spaces, Crowded places, Close-contact setting).
Although the specific actions taken by every parish may depend on its actual size and circumstances, it is recommended that the attached guideline against COVID-19 infection be used as reference and if possible, the following precautionary measures be observed for Christmas and the New Year:
- Make a public announcement in advance that it will be necessary to limit the number of people who may enter the Church.
- Only those who have registered in advance may participate in the Holy Mass.
Although the live streaming of the Holy Mass presided by the Archbishop at the St. Mary’s Cathedral (Tokyo) every Saturday 18:00 will continue only until October 31 and thereafter will be temporarily suspended, we are considering video streaming during major celebrations and diocesan events. Please wait for further announcements on the details concerning the live streaming of the Holy Mass to be presided by the Archbishop on Christmas and the New Year.
It is unfortunate that this year we were not able to celebrate together the important feast of our faith, Easter. Moreover, we would have to celebrate the Nativity of the Lord with various restrictions. 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.
STAGE 3 Precautionary Measures during 2020 Christmas and the New Year
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.
For the elderly and those with chronic illness, kindly assess your physical condition. Should there be any concerns, please give priority to protecting all life and stay at home. 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).
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.
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).
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 infection of the fingers of the priest during distribution, kindly consult the parish priest beforehand.
- Activities other than the Holy Mass such as meetings may be held if the number of participants is about half of the normal room capacity and the precautionary measures described in 3 above are observed, while maintaining distance from each other and keeping the gathering as short as possible.
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.
Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi, SVD Archbishop of Tokyo