UK Police Bust Good Friday Church Service, Threaten to Fine Worshippers

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Footage widely shared on social media shows London police interrupting a Good Friday service at a Polish church in London and threatening Christians with fines unless they dispersed.

Metropolitan Police Service officers had interrupted Friday evening’s Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion service at Christ the King Polish Roman Catholic Church in Balham, Wandsworth, for being “unlawful” under current coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

In footage reported by Sky News, one officer, standing at the front of the church, is heard saying: “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 you details, to being arrested.”

“It’s Good Friday and I appreciate you would like to worship, but it is unlawful,” the officer said.

Police in Wandsworth later confirmed they had investigated the place of worship in response to a “report” of people lining up outside the church.

“Officers attended and found a large number of people inside the church. Some people were not wearing masks and those present were clearly not socially distanced,” the police statement said.

The church said all government requirements had been met during the service and criticised the police for having “brutally exceeded their powers by issuing their warrant for no good reason”.

In a statement on its website, the church said: “We were not allowed to finish the celebration. The policemen found our liturgical assembly illegal, ordering everyone to leave our Temple immediately on pain of a £200 fine for each parishioner present or even arrest. The faithful obeyed this order without objection.

“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 regret that the rights of the faithful have been wronged on such an important Day for every believer and that our worship had been profaned. We informed the superiors of the Polish Catholic Mission in England and Wales about this incident. We asked the police authorities to explain the incident, and we are waiting for their response,” church administrators said.

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

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