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Circular about self-restraint of masses, meetings, etc. in Sapporo Diocese due to the spread of coronavirus infection (No. 5)

勝谷太治(かつやたいじ)  

2021年5月14日

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To the Clergy, Religious, and Laity of the Catholic Church in Sapporo Diocese

Bishop of Roman Catholic Diocese of Sapporo

As you all know, the spread of new vari­ants of COVID-19 infec­tion in Sapporo Diocese has become more serious. So far, there have been no reports of infec­tions orig­i­nating from the parish churches. Thank you all for your efforts. However, as there are some who tested pos­i­tive and some who’ve had close con­tact with people infected, I hear that it is dif­fi­cult for each parish to make a deci­sion.

The other day, I noti­fied the "Guidelines for the Catholic Church in Japan for dealing with infec­tious Diseases” from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan and announced that it was in Phase two. But then, the Governor of Hokkaido issued “Semi-emer­gency coro­n­avirus mea­sures,” and it was decided that this would be done sequen­tially until the end of May. In response to this, the Sapporo Diocese has decided that we are in Phase 3 (Steps to take when an infec­tious dis­ease is spreading in Japan and the gov­ern­ment has declared a state of emer­gency and requested refraining from busi­ness and unnec­es­sary move­ment).

Sapporo Diocese has sus­pended Masses with con­gre­ga­tion and other activ­i­ties (Masses without con­gre­ga­tion may be cel­e­brated) and dis­pense all Catholics from the obli­ga­tion to attend Mass.

Also post­poned are the Sacraments of Baptism, Matrimony and Penance Will. The Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick should be admin­is­tered only in case of emer­gency and with proper mea­sures against infec­tion.

Funerals should be planned in con­sul­ta­tion with the bereaved to include suf­fi­cient mea­sures against infec­tion. Consideration should be given to cre­mating the remains but post­poning the funeral to a later date. I am afraid this requires a great deal of sac­ri­fice on your part, but still the COVID-19 virus per­sists in our com­mu­nity.

However, there are regional dif­fer­ences in the Sapporo Diocese, so please act according to the fol­lowing regarding the above mea­sures.

  • Please ensure that the above contents are thoroughly implemented in the areas in and around Sapporo city and the urban areas in each district.
  • For parishes outside Sapporo city and outside the urban areas of each district, please judge whether sufficient measures are being taken daily against infection, and the comings and goings of priests, and overall careful decision-making.
  • In cases where it is difficult to make a decision, please consult with the head priest of the district and the pastor of the parish.

This mea­sure exempts those faithful who are unable to attend Sunday Mass from the obli­ga­tion to attend the Sunday Mass. We also exempt any elderly who feel anx­ious about their health or have anx­iety about chronic ill­ness.

Lastly, as I had men­tioned in the pre­vious cir­cular, I would like to ask for suf­fi­cient con­sid­er­a­tion and sup­port as a parish com­mu­nity to see if there are any people in need of sup­port in their daily lives who are being left behind, during this restric­tion of church activ­i­ties. And even if the Mass on Sunday is canceled, priests are offering Masses for the people of the parish, so please be united with them in prayer.

This mea­sure will last until the end of May. If the sit­u­a­tion changes after that and an exten­sion occurs, we will notify you again.

May God’s abundant grace be with you!
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