April 3, 2021, 12:31 | Updated: April 4, 2021 09:35
Police interrupted a Good Friday church service in southwest London last night for violating coronavirus regulations.
Images posted to social media on Friday show two Metropolitan Police officers suspending service before Easter at the Christ the King Polish Roman Catholic Church in Balham.
One of the church members invited the officer to the shrine to explain to the congregation why the service was being interrupted.
The Met officer stressed that gatherings “with so many people” are illegal under government law. coronavirus restrictions.
Currently, the guidelines say that services should be as short as possible, that worshipers should be two meters (or one meter if they are wearing a face covering) from people outside their homes, and that people not. should not mingle with people outside their home or the supportive bubble.
The officer also ordered people to return home on pain of being fined £ 200 or arrested if they refused to give their details.
He added that although it was Good Friday, one of the most important days of the year in the Christian calendar, and that he understood that people would like to worship, they had to leave due to the regulations of Covid.
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He said: “Ladies and gentlemen, this gathering is unfortunately illegal under the coronavirus regulations that we currently have.
“You are not allowed to meet that many people inside by law.
“Right now you have to go home.
“Failure to follow this instruction to leave and come to your home could ultimately lead to a fine of £ 200 or, if you do not provide your details, to arrest.
“I suggest, ladies and gentlemen, that although it is Good Friday, and I appreciate that you want to worship, that this gathering is illegal, so please leave the building now.” Thank you. “
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Absolutely shameful. Yesterday, the police interrupted the Good Friday service at the Polish church in Balham.
“I understand that it is Good Friday and that you would like to worship, but this gathering is illegal” pic.twitter.com/cEVuZamVdi
– Luke from Pulford (@lukedepulford) April 3, 2021
A message published on the church website Saturday says: “On Good Friday, April 2, 2021, during the Liturgy of the Passion of the Lord, at the time of the Adoration of the Cross, the police arrived at the door of our church around 6 pm.
“We were not allowed to end the celebration. The police found our liturgical assembly illegal, ordering everyone to leave our temple immediately or face a fine of £ 200 for each parishioner present, or even a arrest.
“The faithful obeyed this order without objection.
“We believe, however, that the police brutally overstepped their powers by issuing their warrant for no good reason because all government requirements were met.
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“We believe that city police officials have been misinformed about the current places of worship guidelines, claiming that the reason for their intervention is the continued ban on public celebrations at places of worship in London due to the lockdown of the January 4, 2021.
“We regret that the rights of the faithful have been violated on a day so important to every believer and that our worship has been desecrated.
“We have informed the superiors of the Polish Catholic Mission in England and Wales of this incident. We have asked the law enforcement authorities to explain the incident and we are awaiting their response.”
He added: “All the rites scheduled for the Easter Dedication, Easter Vigil, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday will take place in the order listed.
“We ask everyone to respect current health requirements in the church and social living space and to pray that such situations do not recur.”
Metropolitan Police said in a statement: “At approximately 5 pm on Friday April 2, officers were called over a report of a crowd of people queuing outside a church in Balham High Road.
“The officers came and found a large number of people inside the church. Some people were not wearing masks and those present were clearly not socially distanced.
“We are particularly concerned about the risk of transmission of the Covid-19 virus following large indoor gatherings in which people are not socially distant and some do not wear masks. As such, the agents decided it was not safe for this particular service to continue.
“Understanding the sensitivity of the situation, the officers spoke with the priest outside the church and were invited inside to address the congregation. No fixed penalty notice has been issued.
“This was one in a series of many events that took place at the church over the Easter period. We are engaging with church authorities today and will continue to do so in the coming days.”