THIS is the shocking moment a police officer interrupts a priest as he says mass during the lockdown in Italy, breaching the strict lockdown rules. 

Father Lino Viola was holding his Sunday worship with 14 people when a police officer walks in and tells him to stop on orders of the local mayor.

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Filmed by a parishioner the cop – who is wearing a mask – tells the priest he is breaching rules on gatherings and that he has to stop immediately or face a fine.

Fr Lino, who has been parish priest at Gallignano near Cremona, refuses and says he will continue as the congregation are in masks and there is no problem.

The policeman adds:'' It is ok to film the service but you cannot have people in the church. They have to leave or everyone will be fined.''

Astonishingly the priest even lies and says he has the permission of mayor Gabriele Gallina to hold the service.

Fr Lino is then heard saying: ''This is an abuse of power. I have spoken to the mayor and the bishop. We are just 14 people all wearing masks and in a large church.''

The officer is then seen walking away only to return seconds later holding a mobile phone and telling the priest it is the mayor who is ordering him to stop the service.

Fr Lino takes the phone and immediately hangs up before handing the phone to the stunned police officer who is then seen turning away and walking off camera.

Italy has been in lockdown for six weeks in a bid to control the spiralling coronavirus pandemic that has left more than 22,000 dead and the hospital system on the verge of collapse.

Mass gatherings are banned and all churches and public buildings are shut but cops are investigating reports Fr Lino has been holding regular services during the stay at home edict.

A police spokesman said: ''The service broke the edict on public gatherings and the priest who was holding it was asked several times to stop but he refused.

''He will receive a fine for 680 Euros and the others in the congregation will be fined 270 Euro each.''

Yesterday an unrepentant Fr Lino said:  ''I've told everyone not to pay the fine. If we have to the parish will take care of it but I am contacting a lawyer.

''This was an abuse of power by the authorities and I told them to make their complaints outside church not at the altar while I was saying Mass.''

Furious local bishop Antonio Napolioni said: ''With regards to what happened we can only express our displeasure at the behaviour of the priest which was not in line with the current emergency decree rules.

''We would like to thank all the local clergy and faithful who during this difficult period have followed the instructions precisely.''

The area where the service took place has had 38 deaths from coronavirus between January and April 1 while the death toll for the same period last year was 14.

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