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Australian police officer stops Catholic Mass to check for masks

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J-P Mauro - published on 02/05/22

Parishioners recalled the incident as "troubling" and "confronting."

A Catholic Mass in Perth, Australia, was disrupted when police officers stormed in to check if congregants were wearing masks. The authorities interrupted the liturgy after receiving tips about improper mask behavior in St. Bernadette’s Catholic Church, in Mount Hawthorn.

The incident

The city of Perth has very strict COVID-19 regulations, which require masks to be worn at all indoor public events. A photograph circulating among news outlets shows the officer in question standing in the nave to check the details of the parishioners. 

 Patrick Horneman, who took the photo, wrote in the caption: 

“During a Catholic Mass in Perth tonight a policeman allowed himself in, strutting up the aisle demanding correct mask behavior and checking exemptions.”

According to The West Australian, police found five unmasked people in the pews and only one had proof of an exemption. After briefly speaking with the “offenders” the police reportedly left the church and the Mass continued. Still, the encounter was described by some parishioners as “troubling” and “confronting”. 

In an interview with Perth Now, a parishioner identified as Matthew recalled the reaction of the congregation: 

“Everyone was sort of pretty stunned, I suppose. Then as soon as it started it was sort of over as he left.” Matthew said people were left shaken by the incident. “It’s just pretty confronting seeing police vests and stuff in church,” he noted, adding “He didn’t remove his hat, which is pretty disrespectful in that environment.”

Police statement

The authorities have yet to issue a formal apology to members of St. Bernadette’s. Instead, they have released a statement which seems to attempt to justify the move. Perth Police said: 

“On Thursday evening, police responded to a report from a member of the public of people not wearing masks inside a church in Mount Hawthorn,” they said. “Upon attendance, five people were spoken to by police and complied in wearing a mask. One person provided proof of an exemption.”

Archdiocese of Perth

The Catholic Archdiocese of Perth has called the incident “highly regrettable.” According to 7News, Archbishop Tim Costelloe remarked: 

“It is my hope that other ways can be found to deal with this delicate issue in future and my office stands ready to cooperate with the police in this matter. It is the formal and very public policy of the Archdiocese of Perth to do everything it can to facilitate compliance with all the government’s requirements in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.” The Archbishop added, “It is a matter of regret to me that the police were placed in a position which led them to take the action they did.”

Read more at Daily Mail.

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AustraliaCatholicCOVID-19Mass
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