Advisory After The Lifting Of The Fourth Declaration Of A State Of Emergency
September 24, 2021
Dear brothers and sisters in the Archdiocese of Tokyo:
As of this writing, the fourth declaration of a state of emergency is expected to be lifted by the end of September. That being so, public masses and church activities for the Archdiocese of Tokyo will thus resume starting October 1. Since we shall move back to the Stage 3 Precautionary Measures which is appropriate for the current situation, please refer to the attached document and implement suitable measures against COVID-19 infection in your communities such as in the parishes.
Apart from Sunday Masses in the parishes, there are some other events having in its program the celebration of the Holy Mass on a Saturday or other days of the week which have been scheduled within the Archdiocese beyond October 1. The organizers of such events must consult the parish priest or the person in charge of managing schedules for the use of the church premises and please comply with the precautionary measures for COVID-19 set by the concerned parish.
In the church, we have received reports of parishioners who have died due to COVID-19, as well as reports of priests and parishioners getting infected by the coronavirus, but none of these have been reported as originating from church activities.
Concerning the vaccination program, the Holy Father made a powerful appeal for people to get vaccinated, saying that it is “an act of love.” However, some people choose not to have themselves vaccinated due to various reasons including physical condition and allergies. For this reason, the Archdiocese has decided not to make vaccination mandatory. Since we are not requiring vaccination at this point in time, we have decided not to make restrictions concerning participation in church activities based on whether a person is vaccinated or not.
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. At the center of our church community 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. 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
STAGE 3 PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES AS OF OCTOBER 1, 2021
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, and if proper ventilation cannot be maintained 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 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.
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.
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 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.
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 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 (less than half the capacity), proper ventilation and the length of time (maximum of one hour and 30 minutes) is carefully considered. But please refrain from events that involve eating and drinking.
- 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.
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.