As in every other country in the world, the coronavirus has greatly affected the lives of the people in Japan. During the past several months, Japanese people have had to go through voluntary lockdowns, travel restrictions, closing of offices, businesses and schools among various other restrictions to their daily lives.
One of the most consequential impacts to the Catholic life, however, was the suspension of public masses and other sacraments mandated by the Japanese Catholic hierarchy. For example, the Archbishop of Tokyo, the Most Reverend Tracisio Isao Kikuchi, SVD, ordered the suspension of all public masses and gatherings from February 27 to June 20, and some restrictions on the public masses are still in force as of this writing. For example, elderly Catholics are discouraged from attending masses and requested to limit mass attendance to a minimum.
Fr. Thomas Onoda, the SSPX priest in charge of Japan, on the other hand, saw things differently. Instead of the previous schedule of two Sunday masses per month in Tokyo, he started offering weekly Sunday masses there starting on March 8. When the usual mass center had to close in April due to the voluntary lockdown, he moved the location to another rented room, assuring weekly Sunday masses to the faithful. Furthermore, in order to limit possible virus infection risk in large gatherings, he decided to increase the number of Sunday masses from one to three starting on Easter Sunday.
On October 1, Fr. Onoda was surprised to see a public notice issued by the Archbishop of Tokyo declaring that the SSPX is not associated with the Tokyo Archdiocese, and also accusing the SSPX of not being "in spiritual unity" by continuing to celebrate public masses for the Catholic faithful.
In his response to the Tokyo Archbishop, Fr. Thomas Onoda expressed his view on the importance of the supernatural life:
"The Society of Saint Pius X respects not only natural life, but also supernatural life. From this standpoint, we believe that, especially when lives are more and more endangered, it is essential and urgent that Catholic faithful have access to Sunday masses and Sacrament of Penance, more than essential daily activities or medical care. Therefore, by ensuring that we take appropriate anti-infection measures in accordance with the policy and guidance of the Japanese government, we are continuing to offer public Traditional Masses every Sunday in Tokyo and Osaka, by the grace, the benediction and the mercy of God."
Fr. Onoda's two letters to the Archbishop of Tokyo are available on his blog.
- Our Response to the 'Public Notice Concerning "The Society of Saint Pius X"' issued by the Archdiocese of Tokyo
- Reflections on the meaning of Church "community": letter to his Excellency Archbishop of Tokyo