Alarm over mask police check at Perth church

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An Instagram post shows police checking mask exemptions during Mass in a WA church. Source: Supplied.

The Archbishop of Perth, Tim Costelloe SDB said it was “highly regrettable” that police felt themselves obliged to intervene during a Mass at a Perth church to enforce the wearing of face masks and he hopes other ways can be found to deal with this delicate issue in the future.

Police officers entered St Bernadette’s Glendalough on Thursday night during the 5:45pm Mass, reportedly in response to tip offs about parishioners who were not wearing masks.

According to an account given by a parishioner, “Matthew”, on Perth’s 6PR radio, one police officer entered the sanctuary after the reading of the Gospel and addressed the congregation, telling a handful of unmasked parishioners they needed to leave.

Matthew said the unmasked parishioners had mask exemptions, and the officers left after finding everything was in order.

He told 6PR host Liam Bartlett that the experience was “confronting” and said he was “shaken”.

“It looks like something from Eastern Europe from 30 years ago,” Matthew said.

Bartlett agreed, saying the police’s actions were “more reminiscent of a military regime than the freewheeling democracy we’re used to living in”.

Parishioner Patrick Horneman posted a photo of police checking congregants’ details on Instagram with the caption, “During a Catholic Mass in Perth tonight a policeman allowed himself in, strutting up the aisle demanding correct mask behaviour and checking exemptions.”

“When have we seen this behaviour before in history?” he asked.

The post has since been deleted.

St Bernadette’s Glendalough. Source: Supplied.

Archbishop Costelloe said the Archdiocese of Perth is committed to observing public health orders, but he hopes any potential breaches of the orders can be dealt with in future in a more delicate way.

“The celebration of the Eucharist is the central act of Catholic worship and is sacred to all Catholics. 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”, Archbishop Costelloe said in a statement.

“The celebration of the eucharist is the central act of catholic worship and is sacred to all catholics. it is my hope that other ways can be found to deal with this delicate issue in future”, archbishop costelloe

“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. 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. They should not have been placed in this position”, he added.

“The Office of the Archbishop will continue to provide all Catholic parishes and other agencies with very clear advice as to their obligations to act in compliance with the Government’s directives”.

“The Catholic community forms an important part of our wider society, and we must play our part in ensuring that everything is done to help our society through this difficult and challenging period”.

A spokesperson for WA Police Media told The Catholic Weekly that “police responded to a report from a member of the public of people not wearing masks inside a church in Mount Hawthorn.”

“Upon attendance, five people were spoken to by police and complied in wearing a mask. One person provided proof of an exemption.”