Advisory After The Japanese Government’s Re-Declaration Of A State Of Emergency
Jan 7, 2021
Dear brothers and sisters in the Archdiocese of Tokyo:
In response to the recent increase in the number of COVID-19 infections, the government issued a second declaration of a state of emergency on 7th January for a specific region. It was reported that Tokyo and Chiba are among those included in the prescribed area, and the period will be for one month.
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. To date, we have received several 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.
Even so, it has not yet been clarified how the infection spreads, thus it is essential for us to take utmost care. The emergency declaration for this time does not include a ban on gatherings such as meetings, but comprehensive precautionary measures against infection is expected. I ask you therefore to kindly review and carefully implement the precautionary measures issued so far in the parishes.
Basically, there will be no major changes in the courses of action stipulated in the document “Re: Advent amid rising COVID-19 infections” released on 1st December last year. But the following points will be emphasized and some minor revisions will be made as follows:
- While inside the Church, if a distance of at least 1 meter 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, public masses will not be allowed.
- 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.
- When participating in the Holy Mass, please refrain as much as possible from verbalization such as singing hymns. Also, kindly ensure that everyone wears a face mask, and that includes the congregation, the mass servers, the mass presider, and the choir. In the presence of a choir, kindly take actions such as using the microphone and limiting the number of members as small as possible, keeping a suitable distance from each other.
- Everyone must sanitize their hands before receiving Holy Communion.
- 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. For the time being, all the faithful of the Tokyo Archdiocese are dispensed from their obligation to attend Sunday masses.
- Since the actual situation for each parish may be very different, I entrust the decision to the parish priest. However, the cooperation of the faithful who serve in areas such as the entrance reception, registration, disinfection measures, among other things is vital for the celebration of the Holy Mass. I am aware that among those who serve in the community are experiencing difficulties and may have a great deal of anxiety, especially for some who have elderly family members or have family members with chronic illness. 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, it would be wise to consider suspending public masses.
This re-declaration of a state of emergency will make it even more difficult for us to come together as a community. It goes without saying that gathering together, singing and praying together in Eucharistic celebration is essential in our life of faith. At the same time, it is an important responsibility for us to protect not only ourselves but all those whom God has given 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, St. Ignatius Church and several other churches are livestreaming the Sunday Mass online. Please check them as well.
Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi, SVD
Archbishop of Tokyo
Stage 3 Precautionary Measures After January 7, 2021
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. 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 greetings and conversations while inside the Church or within the Church 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.
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.
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” 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.
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.
Except for the Holy Mass, all activities where people meet face-to-face in the Church such as meetings, assemblies, gatherings, study groups, among others should be canceled or held online for the time being, with the exception only of meetings necessary for parish management.
- 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.
Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi, SVD Archbishop of Tokyo