To all the members of the Catholic Church in Sapporo Diocese
May 26, 2020
Bernard Taiji Katsuya
Bishop of Roman Catholic Diocese of Sapporo
Sapporo Diocese has suspended Mass and other activities to help contain the spread of COVID-19, since February 27th.
Due to the tremendous sacrifice on the part of every one, there have been no reports of infections in the diocese. Thank you for your cooperation. The Japanese government lifted the state of emergency yesterday, and we will update you about our policy.
In our 3rd notice, issued on March 27, on “Measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infection”, we said that we would refrain from having public masses and any public gatherings until the COVID-19 virus is stamped out. (The opinions of the consulted experts are divided, but this was assuming that there were no cases of the infection for about 7 to 20 days, or if any therapeutic drugs had been developed. Then we could say that COVID-19 had been stamped out.)
Two months have passed since then. But according to expert opinion, the coronavirus outbreak cannot be expected to end soon, as more time is required to develop vaccines and therapeutic drugs. So they say it is necessary for our society to make lifestyle changes to live with the coronavirus in our midst.
We in the Church also need to change our lifestyle, presupposing that infected persons (including ourselves) could be anywhere, and routinely do our best to stop the spread of infection.
In the previous notice, we outlined conditions for offering mass, supposing that confined spaces with poor ventilation, crowded places with many people nearby, and close contact with people could be avoided.
We circulated a questionnaire the other day to all the parishes in Hokkaido concerning the celebration of mass. As a result we have come to learn that in many parishes, mass is being celebrated according to said conditions. We can now say that the new lifestyle is already unfolding in the Church.
Having considered thus, in Sapporo Diocese, we would like to ask parishes to consider celebrating mass with staggered attendance, avoiding the 3 Cs, noting the following points.
- Please follow the strict measures we issued to prevent the spread of infection. In particular, keep in mind that social distance must be maintained inside the chapel, and if that is not possible, please disperse into church halls or restrict admission.
- Make it possible to give necessary information (follow the link) when there is an infected person, and record the name and contact information as needed each time. In that case, please avoid sharing the same pen.
- It is up to each parish to decide whether to open mass or to celebrate with the parishioners only, depending on the situation of the area and parish. However, especially in urban areas, it may be difficult to open mass. If parishioners without mass in their own parish rush to another parish church for mass, it will cause a great confusion. For the small number of tourists’ visits, etc, please respond flexibly according to the actual situation.
- If it is not possible to celebrate mass in such a way to have parishioners attend weekly masses, then a parish priest will be given the authority to exempt parishioners from attending masses on Sundays. Also parishioners who are aging or with certain medical conditions are exempt from attending masses on Sundays.
- Please continue to refrain from church meetings, bazaars, and other events that attract large numbers of people. Again, do not think uniformly about this, but judge according to the situation of each parish.
Since the actual situation varies from parish to parish, we cannot give uniform instructions. Please discuss and discern in each parish to make specific decisions under the guidance of the parish priest. Parishes that are ready should please start the implementation from June.
Finally, as we mentioned in the previous notice, while church activity has been greatly restricted, please consider whether members of the community in need of daily support are being left behind or not. Thank you.