Police burst into Australian church service to enforce mask rule: ‘Everyone was quite stunned’

Worshipers at a church in Perth, Australia were left stunned when police interrupted their service to see who was wearing – and not wearing – masks.

A parishioner at St. Bernadette’s Catholic Church in Mount Hawthorn, named Matthew, told local media that it was “disturbing” to see a policeman interrupt worship last Thursday night, according to The Chronicle. In a separate interview with a radio station, he said everyone in the church was “quite surprised” by the interruption and found it “quite confronting”.

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“Everyone was pretty stunned, I guess,” he said. “Then as soon as it started, it was kind of over when he left. … It was just quite confronting to see police vests and stuff in the church. He didn’t take his hat off, which is quite disrespectful in this environment.

Law enforcement officers reportedly entered the church after being tipped that some of the worshipers were not complying with local mandates requiring the wearing of masks inside.

Below is a photo of the alleged encounter:

In a brief statement, the police confirmed that they had interrupted the service.

“Police responded to a report from a member of the public that people were not wearing masks inside a church in Mount Hawthorn,” the statement read. “During their presence, five people were questioned by the police and agreed to wear a mask. One person provided proof of an exemption.

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How has the church responded?

The church released its own statement last Friday, telling parishioners they must wear masks.

“Please ensure you wear a mask when attending Mass/adoration,” the church said. “You are not allowed to enter the church unless you are wearing a mask. If you have an exemption letter from your doctor, make sure you have it with you at all times.

“Heavy fines for the priest, our parish and individuals will be incurred if you are caught without wearing your mask,” he continued. “Please cooperate with this request to avoid any complications.”

Timothy Costelloe, Archbishop of Perth, called the ordeal “regrettable”.

“It is very unfortunate that the police felt compelled to intervene at a church service in one of Perth’s Catholic parishes in order to enforce the mask mandate,” he said. “The celebration of the Eucharist is the central act of Catholic worship and is sacred to all Catholics. I hope other ways can be found to deal with this sensitive issue in the future and my office is ready to cooperate with the police in this way.

“The Archbishop’s office will continue to provide all Catholic parishes and other bodies with very clear guidance on their obligations to act in accordance with government directives,” the priest added.

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