A VICAR blessed his church's new No Smoking sign in a "protest against excessive bureaucracy".

Canon David Garlick, the vicar of St Mary's Church in Lewisham High Street, led a procession to bless the sign on the church door at the start of a 10am mass.

The sign, described by Canon Garlick as "unsightly", is now required by law at the entrance to all churches following the smoking ban introduced on July 1.

Canon Garlick says the blessing with incense and holy water was made to mock the law and because all new items in churches must be blessed.

He said: "There was an irony in doing the blessing with smoke on a No Smoking sign but we think the ban allows incense."

Around 220 people were at the mass and some joined in the procession outside.

Canon Garlick said: "I think the congregation was amused and pleased by this protest against excessive bureaucracy."