Man Arrested Over Explosive Device Planted in French Cathedral

Security personnel gather at the entrance of Saint Etienne Cathedral in Toulouse, south-we

A 47-year-old man with known a history of placing suspicious parcels on the city’s metro system has been indicted by prosecutors in Toulouse after allegedly planting an explosive device in the Saint-Etienne cathedral.

The man was arrested on Friday by French police in the suburb of Balma several hours after he is said to have placed an explosive device at the foot of the altar of the Saint-Etienne cathedral at around 8:30 am that morning during Mass.

As the man attempted to flee the cathedral, a church employee, a sacristan, made an attempt to detain the man before he could leave but was unable, newspaper Le Dauphine reports.

“A man came in with a package under his arm. I mistook him for a delivery man. He walked through the nave and dropped off the package in front of the steps of the altar. He shoved me, he said something and he left,” the sacristan said.

The package is believed to have been an improvised explosive device and the incident led to 40 worshippers needing to be evacuated from the cathedral. The package did not explode, however, and police later dealt with it.

On Saturday, the Toulouse prosecutor’s office stated that the 47-year-old had been indicted and charged with premeditated violence and noted that the man had previously been convicted of threatening people with a weapon.

Another source claimed that the man had been connected to the placing of suspicious parcels on the Toulouse metro system last month as well. So far, the French anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office has not been involved in the case.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin commented on the incident on Friday, saying, “The individual suspected of having deposited the package resembling an improvised explosive device in the Saint-Étienne cathedral in Toulouse was arrested. Thank you to our police services.”

Attacks on churches and anti-Christian attacks are recognised as a rapidly developing problem in France.

This week, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin slammed the situation for Christians in France and highlighted a new report that claimed the vast majority of anti-religious acts in France last year were directed at Christians.

The French Interior Ministry claimed that of the 1,659 recorded anti-religious incidents in 2021, 857, over half, were directed against Christians.

“The number of attacks indicates that religious intolerance is growing despite all the efforts to try to respect each other,” Cardinal Parolin said and added, “On the other hand, we cannot overlook the issue of radicalization, due to so many different factors.”

While most attacks on French churches involve vandalism, desecration, or arson, there have been several murders in recent years, including the 2016 Islamist killing of Father Jacques Hamel and the 2020 Nice terrorist attack by Tunisian illegal immigrant Brahim Aouissaoui, who killed three people and injured several others.

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


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