Andrzej Fryzicki, who posted footage on YouTube, wrote: “A service was disrupted this evening by the Metropolitan Police in Balham – South West London. It is believed that attendance was pre-booked and that all safety measures were in place prior to the mass taking place.”
The parish said in a statement on its website: “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 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 or even arrest. The faithful obeyed this order without objection.
“We believe, however, that the police grossly exceeded their powers by issuing their order without adequate reason, as all government requirements were met.
“We believe that borough police officials have been misinformed regarding 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 introduced from Jan. 4, 2021.
“We regret that the rights of worshipers have been harmed on such an important day for every believer and that our worship has been profaned.”
The Metropolitan Police said in a statement yesterday: “At around 1700hrs on Friday, 2 April, officers were called to a report of crowds of people queuing outside a church in Balham High Road.
“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.
“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.
“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.”