Worshipers were left stunned after a policeman stopped a Catholic Mass on Thursday to check that parishioners were wearing masks.
Police interrupted the service at St Bernadette’s Church in Glendalough halfway through the priest addressing the congregation after being told people were not wearing masks.
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Masks must currently be worn in all indoor public places in Perth and the Peel, South West, Wheatbelt and Greater South regions.
Five people were found not wearing masks, one of whom had a waiver while the other four were required to put them on.
The incident was shared on Facebook by a parishioner, who wrote “a policeman allowed himself in, strutting down the aisle demanding correct mask behavior and checking for exemptions.”
“Where in history have we seen this behavior before?
Police said in a statement they responded to a report from a member of the public that people were not wearing masks inside a church in Mount Hawthorn.
“While attending, 5 people were questioned by the police and agreed to wear a mask,” they said.
“One person has provided proof of an exemption.”
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Perth, Tim Costelloe, said it was “very unfortunate” that police felt compelled to intervene during the service to enforce mask rules.
“I hope other ways can be found to deal with this sensitive issue in the future and my office stands ready to cooperate with the police in this matter,” he said.
“It is the formal and very public policy of the Archdiocese of Perth to do everything possible to facilitate compliance with all government requirements in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I regret that the police have been put in a position that has caused them to take the action they have taken.”
The church has since shared a message on its Facebook page reminding all parishioners that they cannot enter the place of worship without a mask.
The interruption left worshipers stunned, with one member of the public saying he was “confronted” to see an officer in the church.
“Everyone was pretty stunned, it was confronting,” said parishioner Matthew Radio 6PR.
“It’s disturbing to see the liturgy you love stopped by the police.”
He said parishioners were “a little shaken” by the incident.
Police faced a strong online backlash for the disruption, with some calling it “appalling”.
There are currently 203 active cases of COVID in Western Australia, while 92.8% of the population aged 12 and over have received at least two doses of a COVID vaccine.