Archbishop Kikuchi: new COVID emergency in Tokyo
Strict measures are reimposed in the Japanese capital until 11 May as coronavirus cases rise. For the Archbishop, “it is also essential for the Church to be even more careful”; meanwhile, all other church activities, except for Mass, are suspended.
Tokyo (AsiaNews) – Japan is once again in high pandemic mode. The government today declared a state of emergency in metro Tokyo and the prefectures of Osaka, Hyogo and Kyoto, following a surge in the number of cases linked to SARS-CoV-2 variants.
For the country, this is the third state of emergency after those of January and April 2020.
Under the tighter measures, which will remain in force until 11 May, establishments that serve alcohol and operate karaoke equipment will close as will businesses with a floor space of a thousand square metres or more.
The most serious situation is in Osaka, where more than a thousand daily cases are reported with 15 deaths yesterday.
In Tokyo, the number of daily cases has also been rising steadily, with 752 in last 24 hours, a trend that has fuelled doubts about the Olympics, which the Suga government still wants to hold in July.
In such a situation, the Archdiocese of Tokyo is trying to do its part to stop the new wave.
In the name of religious freedom, the government has not issued specific regulations for places of worship, but Archbishop Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi of Tokyo today released a message for the faithful recommending what to do.
“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.
“During the first emergency declaration, church activities were suspended including public masses. However, on the second emergency declaration [. . .], the celebration of public masses was continued while carefully implementing precautionary measures against COVID-19 infections. To date, we have received 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.
In his message, the prelate cites an interview with the Minister of State for Economic and Fiscal Policy Yasutoshi Nishimura who expressed fear of a new surge of infections in May. for this reason, “it is also essential for the Church to be even more careful.”
Specifically, Archbishop Kikuchi wants the faithful to follow certain guidelines, such as not moving from one prefecture to another, even for those who travel to the parish where they are registered; celebrating only Mass while suspending other activities or broadcasting them online; wearing masks; keeping social distance of at least one metre; and providing adequate ventilation. Where this not possible, Masses should not be held.
As far as possible, people over the age of 75 and those who live with them should pray at home.
“[F]or the time being, all the faithful of the Tokyo Archdiocese are dispensed from their obligation to attend Sunday Masses.” Some churches, he notes, broadcast Mass online every Sunday, like the Sekiguchi Church and the Kojimachi Church.
“It is unfortunate that we are once again under a state of emergency. Let us keep in mind that it is an important duty for us to protect not only our own lives but also to protect all those who have received God’s gift of 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.”