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Tokyo churches to maintain pandemic rules after emergency

Japan's government is to lift its fourth Covid-19 state of emergency this week

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: September 28, 2021 08:15 AM GMT

Updated: September 30, 2021 03:11 AM GMT

Tokyo churches to maintain pandemic rules after emergency

Archbishop Tarcisius Isao Kikuchi of Tokyo says churches will continue pandemic safety rules after the state of emergency is lifted. (Photo: Tokyo Archdiocese)

Catholic churches in Tokyo Archdiocese will continue to maintain safety measures after the government lifts the fourth Covid-19 state of emergency at the end of the month, says Archbishop Tarcisius Isao Kikuchi.

Japan’s Covid-19 state of emergency for 19 prefecture-level cities and regions including Tokyo will expire on Sept. 30 and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga today announced the lifting of the emergency on Sept. 28, local media reported.

The government also lifted a quasi-emergency in eight prefectures while considering whether to allow governors to implement counter-measures against the coronavirus even if the emergency is lifted.

In a public announcement on Sept. 24, Archbishop Kikuchi said churches in Tokyo will continue to implement measures against infections in all parishes.

The prelate noted that even though some priests and the faithful were infected and some believers had died during the fourth state of emergency, nobody had been reported to be infected as a result of church activities.

Referring to Pope Francis’ appeal to people to get vaccinated, Archbishop Kikuchi insisted Catholics be vaccinated before visiting churches. However, he said that “we have not decided to make vaccination mandatory” for attending church services.

Every parish must keep a record of Mass participants to respond to requests from the government health department in the event of any infection

The prelate has issued seven-point guidelines to be followed in Catholic parishes under Tokyo Archdiocese.

Churches should limit the number of people who can enter during services and at least one meter distance from each other must be maintained. The authorities must ensure proper ventilation during liturgy in the church or it cannot be used for liturgy.

The faithful are urged to leave the church immediately after Mass and to refrain from “greeting” each other or “standing talks” on church premises.

Every parish must keep a record of Mass participants to respond to requests from the government health department in the event of any infection.

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The elderly and sick are advised to pray at home. There is no age bar for church attendance and families need to ensure the well-being of members who are old and sick. All the faithful are exempted from the obligation of attending Sunday Mass.

Since January last year, churches in Tokyo have been implementing health safety measures including the use of hand sanitizers and face masks, which will continue without any exception.

Participants in Mass and meetings are asked to refrain from “singing and praying together.” If possible, a small number of choirs can sing in a large space with adequate ventilation, using a microphone for solo organ singing.  

The faithful need to receive communion with disinfected hands to prevent any possible transmission from the priest’s fingers.

During confession, priests must ensure proper ventilation of the room

It is strongly advised to hold conferences and meetings, gatherings and face-to-face activities such as study sessions online. When it is important to arrange in-person activities, less than half the capacity of a venue must be allowed with proper ventilation and a duration of no more than 90 minutes. No eating and drinking are allowed during such events.

During confession, priests must ensure proper ventilation of the room.

Whether vaccinated or not, priests and ministers must wear masks and should disinfect their fingers before dispensing the Eucharist.

Japan has recorded 1.7 million infections and 17,524 deaths from Covid-19, according to government data. Some 72.5 million Japanese or about 57.4 percent of the population have been fully vaccinated.

A coronavirus state of emergency targeting nightlife in Tokyo and other Japanese regions will end this week, PM Suga said on Sept. 28.

The emergency measures, which largely limit alcohol sales, restaurant opening hours and crowd sizes at large events, have been in place for much of the year, including during the Olympics.

They are due to expire at the end of September, and Suga said there would be no extension due to Japan's improving virus situation.

"Thanks to everyone's hard work, the number of daily new infections, which was above 25,000 in mid-August, has come down to 1,128 people as of yesterday," he said at a ministerial meeting.

"Hospital bed occupancy rates in all regions have come down below 50 percent. The number of severely sick people peaked in early September and continues to fall," he added.

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