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Measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infection concerning of public masses in Sapporo Diocese due to the coronavirus outbreak(No.4)

勝谷太治(かつやたいじ)  

2020年5月26日

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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.

追伸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.

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