LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Archbishop John Wilson of Southwark visited Christ the King Polish Catholic Church in south London on Saturday, a day after police stopped a Good Friday service for allegedly violating COVID-19 safety guidelines.

The parish belongs to the Polish Catholic Mission in England and Wales and is located within the Archdiocese of Southwark, which covers the areas of London south of the River Thames.

On April 2, two police officers interrupted the Liturgy of the Passion of the Lord and told the congregation the gathering was “unlawful” and they had to disperse, or face fines for violating social distance and masking rules.

In a statement posted to their website, the parish said the congregation complied with the police order.

“We believe, however, that the police brutally exceeded their powers by issuing their warrant for no good reason,” the statement said.

“We regret that the rights of the faithful have been wronged on such an important day for every believer, and that our worship has been profaned,” the statement continued.

“We believe the municipal police officials have been misinformed about the current guidelines for places of worship, claiming that the reason for their intervention is the continuing ban on public celebrations in places of worship in London due to the lockdown on January 4, 2021,” the parish added.

The COVID-19 lockdown in England allows public worship to continue, as long as social distancing rules are observed.

The Archdiocese of Southwark said Wilson discussed this matter with the Rector of the Catholic Polish Mission, Monsignor Stefan Wylezek, “who intends to contact the Metropolitan Police authorities about how the situation was handled.”

“Public worship is permissible where COVID hygiene procedures are in place and national guidance has been issued by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales,” the archdiocese said.

In a statement, the Met police said the liturgy was stopped because some people “were not wearing masks and those present were clearly not socially distanced.”

“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,” the statement continued.

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