A wedding was held at a church during lockdown after the Catholic priest was allegedly “pressured” into it.
Archbishop of Cardiff George Stack confirmed that a wedding service involving a young couple took place at St Alban-on-the-Moors in Splott, Cardiff, on Tuesday, May 12, after pictures surfaced on Facebook.
Wedding ceremonies and christenings were banned in Wales when lockdown began on March 23.
Archbishop Stack said Father Sebastian Jones was put “under a lot of pressure” to perform the banned service to which he “caved in”.
He said he is “shocked and upset” that the incident occurred and the matter is under investigation by the church.
Pictures posted on Facebook on May 12 show at least 10 people including children posing for photographs in what appears to be a church.
A priest can be seen standing between a young couple while witnesses surround them.
The same social media account had also posted a number of Facebook Live videos on the same day of what appears to be a gathering of people dressed in wedding attire.
Several people in the videos can be heard offering congratulations and dancing to loud music.
One man is heard saying: “Congratulations to my nephew” while another man says: “What a f***ing party. We do it our own sort of style anyway so. Coronavirus. F*** the coronavirus. It won’t stop us having a party.”
On May 12 people in Wales were only allowed to leave their home to shop for basic necessities, for exercise on their own or with members of their household, for a medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person, and to travel to and from work where it was necessary and could not be done from home.
If people did leave home they were told to remain two metres apart from anyone outside their household – guidance which remains in place now.
All social events including weddings, baptisms, and other ceremonies, except for funerals, were stopped.
Archbishop Stack said Catholic churches within all 22 dioceses of England and Wales were directed to close and not to carry out wedding services in line with UK and Welsh Government guidance.
But he confirmed a wedding service did take place at St Alban-on-the-Moors without his prior knowledge in contravention of measures designed to protect public health.
“The parents of the family insisted that it take place immediately,” Archbishop Stack said. “They went to the priest and he caved in.
“When I say he was pressured, he felt pressured. He was concerned. Worried about the girl’s health and safety. All that.
“Now I know it has happened I’m very shocked and upset.
“I share, in a way, the priest’s dilemma but it was not the right thing to do, to succumb to that pressure.”
Archbishop Stack said he had spoken with the priest and the matter was being investigated by the church.
“I think it could be a disciplinary matter but the priest would put forward his defence of course,” he said.
“Whether his defence was: ‘I was under extreme pressure’ or ‘I was worried about the health and wellbeing of this girl’.”
Police are investigating reports of a “wedding party” happening on the same day at an address in the St Julians area of Newport.
Neighbours of a property in Rembrandt Way, Newport, reported hearing loud music on the evening of Tuesday, May 12.
A neighbour, who did not want to be identified, said: “I heard noise from about 10pm.
“It was quite loud. I’m not sure who called the police but they were there at about 11.30pm or 12am.
“The music stopped but after the police left it just kept starting up again. It was loud enough in my house a few hundred yards away from it.”
The neighbour said he was unsure how many people attended the house that night.
Inspector Martin Cawley, of Gwent Police, said officers received reports of a disturbance at an address in Rembrandt Way, Newport, between 10pm and 10.15pm on Tuesday, May 12.
He said: “Officers attended the address, where a wedding party was reportedly taking place, and were told that all present at the address were residing at or on the property.
“We provided advice to the persons present on the current guidance regarding gatherings and social distancing.
“As initial enquiries were unable to determine the identities of those living at the address officers have continued to investigate the incident.
“We are now aware of the individuals residing at or on the property and we will take appropriate and proportionate action if officers determine that a breach has occurred.
“Officers from my neighbourhood policing team are continuing to look into the matter as new information becomes available.
“Our approach continues to involve our officers engaging with local communities to reinforce the message; stay safe, stay local, and maintain social distancing.
“As part of this approach officers will be explaining the situation and encouraging them to follow the advice we have all received to protect themselves and our NHS.
“However if we consider that people are ignoring government advice or if we are finding people are repeatedly disregarding the guidance we have and will continue to take enforcement action.”
Ronald Connors confirmed to WalesOnline that he is the owner of the property in Rembrandt Way, Newport, but denied a wedding party was held there on May 12.
He also denied any knowledge of a wedding ceremony taking place at St Alban-on-the-Moors.
“There was no wedding party,” Mr Connors said. “I had a couple of barbecues. The weather is good. I have had a few barbecues and stuff, yes.
“It wasn’t a wedding party, it was more of a barbecue. It wasn’t a gathering, it was my family who live on the site.
“My son, his partner, the other son, his partner. My family.
“There was no breaking lockdown rules. It was my own family, we live on-site.”
Mr Connors said he was unaware of any wedding ceremony taking place at St Alban-on-the-Moors on May 12.
“Well I haven’t got a clue about that. If there was [a ceremony], or there wasn’t, it’s got nothing to do with me. I don’t know.”
WalesOnline approached Fr Jones for comment and received a statement from his superior Father Ignatius Harrison.
Fr Harrison, Delegate of the Procurator General of the Confederation of the Oratory, for the Oratorian Community-in-formation in Cardiff, said: “Fr Sebastian Jones has been diligent in his pastoral care during his time in the parish.
“In these uncertain times of Covid-19 Christian clergy across the country as reported in national newspapers have responded to unforeseen urgent pastoral situations that confronted them, including a much-publicised wedding at St Thomas’s Hospital in London.
“Covid-19 has brought additional pressure and has required a particular pastoral response.
“Pope Francis has often exhorted the clergy to accompany and support the people they minister to with compassion and sensitivity.”
This content was originally published here.