07/12/2021, 11.10
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Olympics, churches closed to athletes to stop Covid contagion

by mons. Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi*

As of today, a state of emergency against the pandemic is in force in Tokyo. Archbishop Kikuchi's indications: "We would have liked every parish to take charge of the spiritual needs of those arriving in Japan. But in today's situation the priority remains not to transmit the disease".

Tokyo (AsiaNews) - As of today the Tokyo metropolitan area is once again in a state of emergency to stop the new wave of Covid-19. The measure coincides with the period of the Olympics, which will open on 23 July and will see the competitions held without the presence of the public. In this situation, the archdiocese of Tokyo has also decided to adopt strict measures to ensure that the sporting event does not become another opportunity for the spread of the infection. The announcement was made in a message from Archbishop Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi to the faithful of the archdiocese, published below.

In the text, the prelate explains that the provisions issued on 20 June remain in force in the Churches of Tokyo, which already envisage - among other things - the presence in the Churches for celebrations only of a limited number of people, spaced out and registered in the parish, the indication to the elderly and the sick to pray at home (with the dispensation from the obligation of Sunday precept), the invitation to move all parish meetings online, the presence of transparent barriers between the priest and the penitent for confession.

Kikuchi added an invitation to athletes and their staff who will be arriving in Japan to refrain from visiting churches, recalling that the guiding principle followed by the Church of Tokyo in the pandemic has always been "not to infect oneself and not to allow others to be infected". Finally, he underscored the importance of being close to those in need, with special attention to those who are dealing with the crisis created by the pandemic.

In its continued efforts to control the spread of COVID-19 infections, the government issued a fourth declaration of a state of emergency for a limited area. It was reported that Tokyo Metropolitan is included in the prescribed area, and the period will be from 12th July to 22nd August. Chiba Prefecture, on the other hand, will continue to be placed under a special designation that allows for intensive preventive measures against COVID-19.

The Tokyo Olympic games which starts on 23rd July and the Tokyo Paralympic games which starts on 24th August will be held in various places but mainly in the Tokyo Metropolitan area. With the declaration of a state of emergency, it is expected that the events will be held without spectators at venues especially in the Tokyo Metropolitan area. But at the same time, the gathering of the athletes and their support staff coming from all over the world raises concerns about causing further increase in number of coronavirus cases. For the past years, the Tokyo Archdiocese had originally been considering preparations so that each parish may be able to address the spiritual needs of the many people who would come to Japan for this international event. However, we have decided to cancel all plans and thus, will not take any special involvement in the Olympics and Paralympics. In addition, all those who will be coming to the Tokyo Metropolitan area during this period will be provided with information concerning the precautionary measures implemented against COVID-19 infection in the parishes and will be requested to refrain from visiting churches.

Since 30th January of 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. This time, with the fourth declaration of a state of emergency, we will continue our church activities while carefully implementing the precautionary measures as we have done before.

We will basically continue implementing the current “STAGE 3 PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES AS OF JUNE 20, 2021.”

We all know that the vaccination program is progressing. I myself have been vaccinated, as well as the Holy Father. But we basically have to decide for ourselves concerning this matter. In addition, we are not considering the idea of making it a criterion, that is whether one is vaccinated or not, for allowing participation in the Holy Mass.

This year started with the declaration of a state of emergency and later continued to a special designation that allows for intensive preventive measures against COVID-19. And being placed once again under a state of emergency has seriously affected many people, especially those concerning economic activities. The Disaster Response Team of the Archdiocese has introduced through online seminars some activities which were organized by parishes and other groups to support those in need. 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. On top of that, as we take adequate measures against COVID-19 infection, let us do our best to respond to the concerns of those in need. In this difficult situation, may the merciful hands of our Lord through our outstretched hands be extended to the many people facing crisis in their lives.

Moreover, 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.


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