- Police have disrupted an Easter service at a church in South London on Good Friday.
- Worshipers have been threatened with fines of £ 200 ($ 276) or even be arrested.
- A local representative of the Polish Catholic Mission said the police had “violently exceeded their powers”.
Video footage has emerged showing police officers shutting down a Good Friday service for violating UK coronavirus restrictions.
Prayers were interrupted at Poland’s Christ the King Church in south London when Metropolitan Police officers entered the building on Friday evening, Sky News reported.
Two officers then took the pulpit and issued warnings to church worshipers, the video shows.
An officer can be heard telling the congregation that the gathering was “sadly illegal” under COVID-19 restrictions in the UK.
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While there are no numerical limits on church attendance, England’s current lockdown rules specify that places of worship must socially distance themselves and public health requirements must be met.
In the clip, the officer then asks the worshipers to return home.
“Failure to do so… could ultimately result in you being fined £ 200 ($ 276) or, if you don’t provide your contact details, you could be arrested,” he says.
Shortly after, the officer tells the congregation to leave the building and the church emerges. It empties in just under five minutes.
Metropolitan Police said in a statement that officers attended the church after responding to reports of crowds lining up outside.
Officers then found “a large number of people inside,” many of whom were not wearing masks or socially distancing themselves, the statement said. No sanctions were imposed, the police added.
A representative of the Polish Catholic Mission Balham wrote on its website on Saturday that the police had “violently exceeded their powers”.
The statement claims that the Metropolitan Police were misinformed about the worship guidelines and are advising those in attendance on how to complain to authorities about the disturbance.
“We regret that the rights of the faithful have been violated on such an important day for every believer,” added the parish.
The Archbishop of Southwark, John Wilson, has since visited church to discuss the incident, BBC News reported.
The rector of the Polish Catholic mission, Stefan Wylezek, intends to contact the Metropolitan Police to discuss the handling of the situation, Reuters said.