Police shut down Good Friday church service and threaten worshippers with fines

Ruben Hill
April 4, 2021

A Roman Catholic church in London said on Saturday it would complain to the police after officers shut down a Good Friday service on the grounds it broke COVID-19 lockdown rules limiting the size of congregations.

The church was not allowed to finish the service and parishioners were told to go home or else risk being fined £200 or even arrested if they failed to provide their details.

They added that all other scheduled Easter services would go ahead, and asked parishioners "to pray that such situations will not be repeated".

The police threatened everyone present with automatic £200 fines under coronavirus pandemic powers to break up illegal gatherings - or arrest if they refused to identify themselves.

The police officer then speaks to the congregation in English, pointing out, "This gathering is, unfortunately, unlawful under the coronavirus regulations we have now", and that worshippers "are not allowed to meet inside with this many people, under law".

Official coronavirus guidance states communal worship or prayer can be attended by as many people as a place of worship can accommodate, as long as they are socially distanced.

Commentators on social media also slammed the police for allowing daily protests by Muslims outside the Batley Grammar School in West Yorkshire after a teacher showed images of the Muslim prophet Muhammad in a religious education class. The archdiocese released a statement reporting what had happened and noting that "the remaining liturgy wold have taken approximately 30 minutes to complete". "You are not allowed to meet inside with this many people under law".

'It's Good Friday and I appreciate you would like to worship, but it is unlawful'.

Under current guidelines, face coverings must be worn in church but there are "valid exemptions for some individuals and groups to not wear a face covering in these settings", including those leading the services and those who assist them. The faithful obeyed this order without objection.

Christ the King church on Balham High Road
Covid: Good Friday service shut down over 'rules breach'

Christ the King church condemned the Metropolitan Police operation, accusing officers of having "brutally exceeded their powers by issuing their warrant for no good reason" because "all government requirements were met".

'We regret that the rights of the faithful have been wronged on such an important day for every believer'.

We informed the superiors of the Polish Catholic Mission in England and Wales about this incident.

The church said all "government requirements have been complied with".

"To see British police officers forbidding Polish Catholics from marking Good Friday feels like a betrayal of what Britain is meant to stand for", remarked liberal columnist Brendan O'Neill, excoriating the police for their "tin-pot tyranny" on "the most solemn day in the Catholic calendar".

Another wrote: 'Absolutely disgraceful behaviour by the police'.

Video of officers addressing the congregation, from the altar of the church, has been circulating online.

'Understanding the sensitivity of the situation, officers engaged with the priest outside the church and were invited inside to address the congregation. "No fixed penalty notices were issued".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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