Police in the U.K. stormed into a church on Good Friday and canceled a liturgy while threatening worshippers for violating public health orders amid the coronavirus pandemic.
While portions of the U.S. are now wide open, especially on sacred days such as Good Friday, millions of British citizens are still living under lockdown rules which are being enforced. That applies even during one of the most sacred days and weeks for Christians.
In a video which has gone viral online, an officer told churchgoers, “Ladies and gentlemen, this gathering is unfortunately unlawful under the coronavirus regulations we have currently.”
“You are not allowed to meet inside with this many people under law. At this moment in time, you need to go home,” the officer added.
“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 being arrested,” he further threatened.
“I suggest, ladies and gentlemen, though it is Good Friday, and I appreciate you would like to worship, that this gathering is unlawful, so please may you leave the building now. Thank you.”
“On Good Friday, April 2, during the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion, at the moment of the Adoration of the Cross, at about 6 p.m., the police came to the door of our church. We were not allowed to finish the celebration,” the parish said, according to a translation from the CNA.
“The police officers, stating that our liturgical assembly was unlawful, ordered everyone to leave our church immediately under the threat of a fine for each of the parishioners present of £200 [around $277] or even arrest,” the parish added. “The faithful obeyed this order without objection.”
The parish then accused police of interfering with their rights to worship during the Holy Week.
“We believe, however, that the police grossly exceeded their powers by issuing their order without adequate reason, as all government requirements were met,” the parish said.
Police, in a statement defining the actions of officers, cited the fear of coronavirus transmissions as the reason for disrupting such an important service.
“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,” Metropolitan Police said in a statement.
“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,” police added.
The parish noted that all “scheduled services for the blessing of Easter food, the Easter Vigil, Easter Sunday, and Easter Monday will take place as indicated.”
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