French Interior Minister Calls for Heightened Security at Churches over Christmas

Notre Dame cathedral is pictured in Paris, Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2019. Notre Dame Cathedral is unable to host Christmas services for the first time since the French Revolution, because the Paris landmark was too deeply damaged by this year's fire. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
AP Photo/Thibault Camus

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has called for significantly strengthened security measures to be enacted at churches across the country over the Christmas holiday.

Darmenin made the request for extra security to the regional and departmental prefects across the country, saying in a memo that he wanted to see a “significant” strengthening of security measures, which will include soldiers as part of the anti-terror Operation Sentinel.

“Thank you for ensuring maximum visible mobilization of our security forces in the immediate vicinity of churches and temples in this period of high risk of attack,” the minister wrote in a memo on Wednesday, French magazine L’Obs reports.

Since the Nice church attack in October that saw three people murdered by a Tunisian illegal immigrant, France’s national security alert system, Vigipirate, has remained on its highest level and this will continue through the Christmas period.

Minister Darmanin also called on the prefects to “identify the most sensitive sites, to know the places and times of the ceremonies and thus define the protective measures to be implemented in order to reassure Christians.”

Since the start of the month, the previous 30-person limit for churches as part of President Emmanuel Macron’s coronavirus lockdown measures was lifted after the French Council of State said the measures were disproportionate, but some restrictions still remain in place, such as a requirement to separate families by at least two empty chairs between them.

The restrictions were lifted following large protests at various churches around the country in November that saw hundreds gather, demanding to be allowed to engage in worship.

Some priests went on to defy the restrictions with the archbishop of Lille Laurent Ulrich labelling the restrictions “arbitrary, discriminatory and unrealistic” and telling priests under him to welcome people to their churches.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


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