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Tokyo archbishop asks Olympic athletes not to visit Catholic churches during games

By Courtney Mares for CNA

Japan National Stadium in Tokyo, the main stadium of the 2020 Summer Olympics. / Arne Müseler via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0 DE).

Rome Newsroom, Jul 13, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

The Catholic archbishop of Tokyo has asked visiting Olympic athletes and coaches to refrain from attending local Catholic churches to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Archbishop Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi said on July 12 that the Tokyo archdiocese had made a “commitment that we will not be infected nor will we allow others to be infected.”

As a part of this commitment, the archbishop has asked that all those coming to the Tokyo metropolitan area during the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games this summer “refrain from visiting churches.”

“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,” Kikuchi said.

“However, we have decided to cancel all plans and thus, will not take any special involvement in the Olympics and Paralympics.”

The city of Tokyo has already enforced a state of emergency two weeks ahead of the Olympic Games, which are scheduled to begin on July 23.

Spectators have also been banned from the Olympic sporting events to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Under the city’s fourth state of emergency since the outbreak of the pandemic, the Tokyo archdiocese is restricting the number of people who can be inside a church at one time while maintaining social distance and has asked Catholics to only attend their local parishes.

“The parish will keep a record of those who participated in the Holy Mass in order to respond to the request of the public health department in the event of a confirmed case of COVID-19 infection,” according to the measures posted on the archdiocese’s website.

A dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Masses is still in place in the Tokyo archdiocese, which serves around 100,000 Catholics out of a total population of almost 20 million.

As of July 13, the local government reports that there are 1,986 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the Tokyo metropolitan area, which has a population of over 36 million people.

Of those hospitalized, 58 people have severe symptoms, according to the Tokyo metropolitan government. A total of 2,258 people have died in Tokyo of COVID-19 since the first outbreak of the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China, in 2019.

An estimated 28% of the Japanese population has received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine as of July 13, according to Reuters.

“We all know that the vaccination program is progressing,” Kikuchi said.

“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.”

The guidance on church visits for visitors will remain in place for the Paralympic Games, which are scheduled to take place in the Tokyo metropolitan area from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5.

“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,” the archbishop said.

“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.”

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  1. Absolute disgrace! “… 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…” No, instead you are sending your sheep into the pit! What kind of bishop tells his flock to stay away from Mass? If anyone needs more proof these are the end times, sadly this is one of many. Repent!

  2. Sad.

    From Matthew, 6th Chapter:
    25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

  3. Sure, it’s fine to work on the physical body and mental discipline to hone that body. Sure, it’s fine to hone those, but there is a problem with seeking spiritual sustenance. Got it, bishop-boy.

  4. This Archbishop obviously has no care for souls. To deny people God through the Sacraments, must look terrible in the eyes of God and is stirring up His wrath. Does the Archbishop not know that God rewards all good and punishes every sin according to its gravity? He needs a Traditional Catechism, studies it, and lives by it.

  5. How sad! What has the Church become? I expect that from a restaurant, a bar, a grocery store, even a mainline Protestant church, but not from the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church that is here representing Christ’s body on earth. I remember the old bumper sticker: What Would Jesus Do?

  6. Wow, I find this nothing short of appalling. Here we are again with an upper churchman telling the faithful not to come to church. Its probable that most if not all of the athletes themselves will be vaccinated. If Japan has a low vaccine rate that is their issue. The vaccination rate is likely to be better among the foreigners. Do these people realize the long term damage they are doing by all but asserting that church attendance is not required? Until recently I was led to believe missing Sunday Mass was a significant sin if done without cause. Our diocese will be bringing back the Sunday obligation within the month. ( FINALLY!!) All the hierarchy has done over this past year and a half is to make it clear to the faithful that the body is MUCH more important than the soul, sacraments are unimportant, and worship is a fly by night thing you can skip when the mood strikes you. On so many levels, this has been a huge mistake. As the faithful stay away from church , not only will their soul be endangered but also, as donations drop, churches will be forced to close, adding to the harmful domino effect, with ever more people becoming distant from church. Its impossible for me to imagine that these churchmen cannot see the harm they are doing. This is sad beyond words.

  7. I guess this diocese (along with every diocese in the U.S. and many others throughout the world) will have to retire the opening ditty, “All are Welcome.” I hope so, at least, so that there will be one benefit coming from the decision to close churches due to corona.

  8. Following the outbreak of the pandemics last year, the archdiocese of Tokyo had voluntarily cancelled all the public masses for several months and banned the holy communion on the tongue without a legal enforcement by the government. The measures were loosened to some extent thereafter, but even now the parish priests are mandated to determine whether they allow the people to receive the holy communion on the tongue or not, and there are still cases where the faithful are denied communion for that.
    But, I believe that every member of the faithful has the right to attend the Sunday mass and receive the holy communion on the tongue as he or she wishes. These rights are fundamentally given to the faithful from God and cannot be taken away by humans no matter whether they are bishops or priests, aren’t they? I hope that people around the world know that we the Catholics in Japan have been suffering from this kind of measure not only in the archdiocese of Tokyo but also in other parts of the country since last year, and that we need support at various levels from the faithful in solid Catholic communities around the world to improve the situations here in Japan and combat and live through difficulties and obstacles faced within the Catholic Church here.
    Let us pray that all the clergy in the world fulfil their mission to faithfully serve God and the people and work for His greater glory and salvations of souls!

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