Parishioners have accused London police of trying to find lockdown rule-breaking during an Easter Sunday service to justify having shut down a Good Friday mass at a Polish church.
The Christ the King Polish Roman Catholic Church in Balham, Wandsworth, south London, came to prominence over the weekend after several police officers raided the place of worship on one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar, alleging that the gathering was “unlawful”, threatening the faithful with £200 fines if they did not leave.
The church has demanded an apology from London’s Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and maintains that churchgoers had kept proper social distancing and hygiene procedures in accordance with government rules regarding the reopening of places of worship.
According to the Dail Mail, two officers showed up at the church on Balham High Street on Sunday during mass and spoke to two church stewards before leaving, apparently not finding reasons to issue any fines or dispersal orders.
Wandsworth police tweeted on Sunday afternoon: “After police were called to a church in Balham on Friday, we are pleased that Easter events could continue at this church as planned throughout Saturday and on Sunday. We continue to engage with all of London’s communities to enable religious services to take place safely.”
Images taken from outside of the church showed the overflow of around 40 worshippers kneeling on the pavement, listening to the service coming from inside on loudspeakers.
Speaking to the newspaper, 17-year-old Lukaz Kaczmarak said: “The police were here again today, but I wonder if they were here to try and catch us out.
“They are scared they made a mistake so now want to prove that we are breaking the rules in whatever way they can find, so came back to check up on us.”
The young man added that churchgoers were particularly upset because the disruption on Friday had come during “one of the most important days in the Catholic calendar” and before anyone had had a chance to take the eucharist.
He also accused a police officer of being disrespectful, saying: “The female officer came in, walked around and stood on the altar. I don’t know if she doesn’t believe in God, but it could have been handled better and more respectfully.”
Tomsz Niewiadomski, 39, who was at Friday’s mass, said that it seemed like the police did not know what they were doing, saying that on Good Friday: “I was standing just inside the door at the back. They came in and said everyone was breaking the law before checking what was in place. They said no one was social distancing and it was unsafe.
“But everyone was wearing masks and sitting apart from each other. There was a booking system so there was only a certain number of people inside.”
The church’s chairman, Merek Mendel, confirmed that officers visited again on Sunday, saying of the Met’s actions on Friday: “It was disgusting what they [the police] did. Good Friday is one of the most sacred days for us.”
Mr Mendel added that as well as threatening churchgoers with £200 fines each, police had said the church risked a £10,000 penalty.
Police in Alberta, Canada, also tried to disrupt a Polish church service during the holy days, before Pastor Artur Pawlowski ordered the six officers to leave and not return without a warrant, shouting, “Out! Out! Out!”, and calling the officers “Gestapo Nazi communist fascists” and “psychopaths”.
WATCH: ‘Gestapo Is Not Welcome Here’ – Canadian Police Thrown Out of Easter Service by Polish Pastor https://t.co/Q0pEJDDl4Y
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) April 4, 2021