“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: “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.”
“This was one of a series of numerous events taking place at the church over the Easter period. We are engaging with church authorities today and will continue to do so in the coming days.”
The parish, which belongs to the Polish Catholic Mission in England and Wales, is located in the Archdiocese of Southwark.
Archbishop John Wilson of Southwark made a pastoral visit to the church on Saturday. The archbishop spoke with clergy and a number of parishioners present at the church, assuring them of his closeness in prayer and offering them his support following the incident.
A statement on the archdiocese’s Facebook page said that Wilson had discussed the matter with Mgsr. Stefan Wylężek, rector of the Polish Catholic Mission, who intended to contact police authorities about how the situation was handled.
The parish said it had asked the police for an explanation of the incident and encouraged parishioners to consider making a formal complaint.
It pointed out that the latest government guidelines and guidance from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales permit public worship in Holy Week, with congregations obliged to observe strict rules to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The parish’s statement concluded: “All scheduled services for the blessing of Easter food, the Easter Vigil, Easter Sunday, and Easter Monday will take place as indicated.”
“We ask everyone to observe the current sanitation requirements in the church and community spaces and to pray that similar situations will not occur again.”
This report has been updated to include the visit of Archbishop John Wilson of Southwark to Christ the King Church.
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