United Kingdom Police reportedly crashed into a Catholic Good Friday Service and threatened fines on all who attended Mass.
The Christian Post reported on Sunday that the London Police was accused of "brutally exceeding their powers" for shutting down the Lord's Passion service of the Christ The King Polish Church in Balham, London last Good Friday. A video showed one police as saying that those who attended will be fined for £200 each unless they go home, Sky News noted.
"You are not allowed to meet inside with this many people under law. At this moment in time, you need to go home. Failure to comply with this direction to leave and go to your home address ultimately could lead you to be fined £200 or, if you fail to give your details, to you being arrested. It's Good Friday, and I appreciate you would like to worship, but it is unlawful," the police officer was heard in saying in the said video.
The Wandsworth Times, on the other hand, explained the video showed the very moment the police was shutting down the service after they have intervened due to alleged breach of safety rules imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The media outlet said that the metropolitan police issued a statement immediately after the video had gone viral to explain their side on the matter.
"You may have seen video showing police officers at one of a series of church services in #Balham. Please see our statement below," the Wandsworth Police tweeted on Saturday.
In the statement, the Wandsworth Police stated that they came to the church at 5 p.m. on Good Friday in response to a call that informed them of a queuing crowd on Balham High Road outside the church. Officers then responded to the call and went to the church and did find "a large number of people inside the church" with "some people 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 as a result of large indoor gatherings at which people are not socially distanced and some are not wearing masks. As such officers made the decision that it was not safe for that particular service to continue," the statement said.
The police said that they understood the "sensitivity of the situation" since they knew that the service was one of the events normally conducted by the church for Easter. Thus, their officers actually talked with the priest "outside the church" and only came inside after they were invited to "address the congregation."
The statement clarified that "no fixed penalty notices were issued" in line with the incident despite what was stated by one of their officers in the video. The statement went on to say that the local police are continuously "with church authorities" on the matter.
Meanwhile, a statement released by the Christ The King Polish Church in their website say that those present "obeyed their order without objection" after being told the service was "illegal" and should stop.
"We believe, however, that the police brutally exceeded their powers by issuing their warrant for no good reason, as all government requirements were met. We believe municipal police officials have been misinformed about the current place of worship guidelines, saying the reason for their intervention is the continuing ban on public celebration in places of worship in London due to the lockdown on January 4, 2021," the statement said.
The statement expressed "regret that the rights of the faithful have been wronged on such an important Day for every believer, and that our worship has been profaned" since local government guidelines allow the celebration of such services in places of worship as long as sanitary rules are complied with.
It stressed that scheduled services until Easter Monday will continue and asked its congregation "to observe the current sanitary requirements in the Church and the space of social life, and to pray that such situations will not be repeated."
In addition, the statement mentioned that their Polish Catholic Mission superiors have been informed about the incident, whose explanation they await from the local police. The statement invited those present during the worship service to file a complaint directly to local police and provided the link for it.