BALHAM, England (ChurchMilitant.com) - London's Metropolitan Police have apologized for disrupting and shutting down the Liturgy of Our Lord's Passion at a Polish Catholic church in London on Good Friday.
Police have also confirmed a Criminal Investigation Department (CID) probe into a "hate speech" billboard erected on Easter Sunday outside the Church of Christ the King, Balham; which accused the Catholic Church of abusing Polish women.
"We know that many people were very upset about what happened on Good Friday, and we deeply regret it," Detective Superintendent Andy Wadey told the congregation Sunday.
Wadey, who was accompanied by Superintendent Roger Arditti and Abp. John Wilson of Southwark archdiocese, addressed parishioners after the morning Mass marking Divine Mercy Sunday.
The officer acknowledged that since the Good Friday fiasco, there had been "significant reflection and learning" by him and Arditti, as well as local officers and senior leaders at New Scotland Yard.
But London mayoral candidate and member of the London Assembly David Kurten told Church Militant that the police apology would be seen as "just crying crocodile tears" as "long as they continue to deny citizens their fundamental freedoms in any context."
"Apologizing for closing down the Good Friday service at the Christ the King Polish Catholic Church in South London is the very least the Metropolitan Police can do," Kurten said. "It is likely they did so only because of the worldwide condemnation of their fascist actions."
"While this particular incident of tyranny got into the mainstream media, there are dozens of others which have not, such as the intimidation, harassment and arrest of peaceful citizens at a small freedom rally in Shepherd's Bush Green on Saturday," Kurten maintained.
A source close to the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) told Church Militant that the matter had been discussed at the highest levels following the "mainstream and social media stink and worldwide embarrassment caused to the global reputation of New Scotland Yard."
Wadey explained to the congregation that "the last year has been terrifically difficult for everyone in London" and that the pandemic had "caused significant challenges for us all, and we have all had to live our lives differently."
"The restrictions have been challenging for everyone, including faith communities, and also, on occasions, for the Metropolitan Police Service as we seek to keep people safe," he added.
Meanwhile, the Catholic family who made a police complaint against the hate-speech billboard outside the church told Church Militant that a CID investigation had been launched into the incident.
A police officer from the Wandsworth police confirmed in a telephone conversation with the complainant that "other members of the public" had also complained about the billboard, and police officers had visited the scene.
Church Militant obtained a voice recording of the conversation in which the officer also revealed that the building manager of the Polish church had climbed up a ladder and torn down a portion of the poster.
Police initially told the complainant — who reported the hate crime under Equality Act 2010 — that the billboard was a "political statement" and may not constitute hate speech for the Crown Prosecution Service to act.
The Polish text on the poster urges: "Pray for Polish women." Below, the English text states: "Catholic Church abuses Polish women." Polish sources told Church Militant that "the phone call snitching on the congregation on Good Friday, followed by the defamatory poster campaign on Easter Sunday, was a hit job orchestrated by the pro-abortion Strajk Kobiet (Women's Strike)."
In an interview with The Tablet, Msgr. Stefan Wylężek, vicar delegate of the Polish Catholic Mission for England and Wales, said that "the police officer told the priest all London churches were closed — this was not true."
"After two previous occasions when police arrived at our churches, we received apologies, with an admission that officers had not behaved properly. Police can intervene before or after, but not when a service is taking place. Nor are they allowed to ... interrupt people in their prayers," Wylężek said.
Assistant parish priest Fr. Aleksander Dasik also revealed that, in "the subsequent police statement," the officers admitted they "had acted erroneously and unprofessionally, and talked instead about a lack of masks and social distancing. They clearly didn't know the legal situation."
Accepting Wadey's apology, parish priest Msgr. Władysław Wyszowadzki noted that "the interruption of the Good Friday Liturgy was very painful for our parish community."
"But in the spirit of the gospel, we willingly extend our hand to the representatives of the police authorities in order to further build a deep and lasting relationship between us, based on mutual respect and regard for the rights of worshippers to freely practice their Faith," he said.
In a statement read after Holy Mass, Wylężek urged the congregation to "rise above the heartache just as the apostles moved on from their grief" after the Resurrection.
In his address, Abp. Wilson noted that "the genuine concerns of the Polish Catholic Mission and Christ the King Parish community have been heard directly by the Metropolitan Police Service."
"We are all deeply saddened by the events that took place in this church on Good Friday afternoon," but "we all share the same desire to move forward in friendship, working together for the common good" and "are committed to enabling freedom of worship for everyone, in safe and secure environments," Wilson remarked.
"We place our sorrow before the risen Lord who asks us to be instruments of His peace," Wilson said.