Terror threat in France

Churches in France warned to be on alert

Churches in France warned to be on alert
The feast of Assumption on August 15th is a highlight in the Christian calendar. Church leaders have been reminded of the importance of security. Photo: AFP
Four months after a botched terrorist attack on a church near Paris and just as French Catholics prepare to celebrate the feast of Assumption, Christian leaders and parishioners have been reminded to be on their guard.

The country’s Ministry of Interior and the Conference of Bishops in France (CEF) have written to religious leaders across the country reminding them of the security procedures that need to be in place in churches.

Rather than boost the current level of security around France’s 45,000 places of Christian worship, the government wants churchgoers to play a role in thwarting any possible attacks.

“Parishioners, whether regular or occasional and visitors, be involved in your own security,” reads the poster to be put in churches, that was published in La Croix newspaper.

The memo, sent out at the end of July in time for this weekend’s feast of Assumption, which generally sees a rise in church goers, lists a number of measures that can be taken.

“Don’t leave your bags alone during communion, signal any abandoned object and keep an eye out for clothing not appropriate for the occasion,” it reads.

The CEF ruled out installing security gates at the entrances to churches nor will that happen at France’s holy pilgrimage site of Lourdes, which receives six million visitors each year.

“We are not going to search everyone who looks a bit weird,” David Torchala, communications chief at Lourdes told La Croix.

The question of security at French churches has been at the forefront ever since would-be jihadist Sid Ahmed Ghlam was foiled just as he was about to launch an armed attack on a church in Villejuif, to the south of Paris in April.

France simply does not have the resources to place armed soldiers outside all Christian places of worship as it does for synagogues.

Only 178 of the country’s churches are given special protection, including Notre Dame cathedral in Paris and the Sacre Coeur Basilica.

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