Tokyo, Japan, Mar 11, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- More dioceses in Japan have shut down Mass for the coming weeks in response to the ongoing outbreak of the coronavirus nationwide.
The majority of Japanese dioceses have now suspended all public worship.
10 dioceses of 16 have now suspended public Masses, according to Satoh Takaharu, a spokesman for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan
This comes after reports and pronouncements from various individual bishops across the nation regarding temporary church closures.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan says that the bishops have not made any sweeping or mandatory prescriptions on the virus outbreak, and the matter is left to the discretion of individual diocesan bishops.
“The CBCJ is not in a position to issue such directives as the situations vary in dioceses and the dioceses are taking necessary measures accordingly,” said Satoh.
Additionally, the CBCJ went on to say that decisions on the matter are not in any way influenced by the Japanese authorities. Churches are making precautionary choices by their own judgement.
“The CBCJ is not in contact with the Japanese government to decide what to do on Masses,” said Satoh.
As of March 10, 587 people in Japan have contracted coronavirus, and 10 have died.
Other religions’ places of worship in Japan have also closed temporarily, including mosques. Native Japanese religions — Shinto and Buddhism — do not have weekly obligations of attendance and have been less impacted by the outbreak.
The Archdiocese of Osaka, led by Cardinal Thomas Aquino Manyo Maeda suspended March 13th public Masses yesterday, and is expected to introduce additional measures this week.
Dioceses that had previously implemented Mass cancellations are now extending them.
The Archdiocese of Tokyo has now cancelled public Masses through March 29th, as well as all public church gatherings besides weddings and funerals.
“The other day, it was announced that Masses all throughout Italy, including the Diocese of Rome, had been suspended. In Japan, it is not yet clear when the infections will peak,” said an official update on the Archdiocese of Tokyo website posted today.
The update continues, “For events other than Masses, as much as possible kindly consider postponing or canceling them, except only for small gatherings. In case of holding such events, in addition to hand disinfection, kindly provide sufficient ventilation, keep a distance between each other, and try to finish as quickly as possible.”
The announcement from the Archdiocese of Tokyo also stressed that the dispensation from Mass is not a dispensation from religious observance, and urged Catholics throughout the community to worship in private for the time being.
“Since we are not relieved from our duty to pray on Sundays, let us find time to offer our Sunday prayers, in spiritual communion with the whole Church community.”
The news comes on the heels of worldwide church closures in countries affected by the coronavirus outbreak, including Pope Francis’ own Diocese of Rome.
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