A Good Friday service in south London was separated by police over evident breaches of Covid-19 policies.
Video footage submitted on YouTube showed Metropolitan police officers resolving worshippers at the Christ the King Polish Catholic church in Balham, south London, late on Friday afternoon.
The video shows an officer informing the congregation that they might be fined ₤ 200 or detained for the potential rule-breaking. He said: “This event is regrettably illegal under the coronavirus guidelines we have presently. I recommend, women and gentlemen, that though it is Good Friday, and I appreciate you want to worship, that this event is illegal, so please might you leave the building now. Thank you.”
A statement posted on the church’s site on Saturday stated that they adhered to the order to close the service and for individuals to go house, but insisted it had actually met all government requirements. It claimed the Met officers had misconstrued guidelines on church services during the pandemic.
They stated: “We believe, nevertheless, that the cops completely surpassed their powers by releasing their warrant for no good factor.”
They included that they had been in touch with the Polish Catholic Objective of England and Wales and the cops about the event and were awaiting a more in-depth description.
In guidance issued to churches before Holy Week, which encompasses the Easter events, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales said: “Care needs to be taken for the numbers of people present for this liturgy, which is incredibly popular with the faithful. If required, extra celebrations can be considered, taking into consideration the threats associated for the faithful in taking a trip to and from church.”
A representative for the Metropolitan cops stated no fines were offered, and the force was engaging with church authorities over the Easter weekend. He included: “Officers attended and discovered a great deal of individuals inside the church. Some individuals were not using masks and those present were clearly not socially distanced.
” We are particularly concerned about the threat of transmission of the Covid-19 virus as an outcome of large indoor events at which individuals are not socially distanced and some are not using masks. As such, officers made the decision that it was not safe for that specific service to continue.”