Ten of 16 dioceses across Japan have suspended public Masses in a bid to help stop the spread of new coronavirus.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan (CBCJ), however, said that no mandatory measures had been introduced on a nationwide level, adding diocesan bishops would individually make such decisions, the Catholic News Agency (CNA) reports.
“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,” Satoh Takaharu, a spokesman for the CBJC, told CNA.
Takaharu added that Japanese authorities had no bearing on the decision to suspend public worship.
“The CBCJ is not in contact with the Japanese government to decide what to do on Masses,” he said.
The Osaka Archdiocese has suspended public Masses March 14, and is expected to introduce additional measures in the days to come.
On March 10, Archbishop Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi of Tokyo announced the suspension of public Masses in the capital from March 15-29.
“March 11 is the Memorial Day of the 2011 [earthquake and tsunami] disaster in Tohoku,” AsiaNews cites the prelate as saying.
Because of “the coronavirus infection, we are not able to organize Mass and other events at the Tokyo Cathedral,” he added.
Archbishop Kikiuchi said that the Catholic Tokyo Volunteer Center had prepared a video clip that will be broadcast on March 11 so that people can “pray together.”
On March 12, the number of new coronavirus cases in Japan reached 624, after four new cases were reported that day.
By prefecture, Hokkaido has the most cases at 118, followed by Aichi with 104, Osaka (80), Tokyo (73), Kanagawa (46), and Hyogo (41), Japan’s national broadcaster NHK reported.
The health ministry said that 40 people are in serious condition.
On March 11, The World Health Organization (WHO) declared that new coronavirus is a pandemic, nothing a 13-fold increase in infections over the past two weeks.
The WHO noted that there had been over 118,000 cases recorded in 114 countries, with 4,291 deaths.