(dpa) – A priest and another clergy member were taken into police custody after celebrating an Easter Mass in France that did not adhere to coronavirus safety rules, prosecutors said on Thursday.

Preliminary investigations had already begun at the start of the week. Both church members were released in the evening.

They are under suspicion after an Easter Mass on Saturday in Paris’ Church of Saints Eugene and Cecilia in which multiple people stood close together without masks, according to French media.

Masses may currently only be said in compliance with distancing rules. The Paris diocese also points out that communion may only be received by hand and that masks are compulsory from the age of 11.

Video excerpts of the four-hour service also showed people receiving communion by mouth.

The Paris diocese opened an ecclesiastical case against the priest in charge of the church. Hygiene measures are the subject of clear instructions, which the Paris diocese regularly reminds people of, it said in a statement. These had not been observed at the Mass.

France, with a population of about 67 million, has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. More than 4.8 million people have become infected, while 97,000 people have died in relation to the virus.

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