Cologne Cathedral is to introduce stringent new security measures amid ongoing security fears, with worshippers’ bags being searched and private security drafted in.
Cathedral provost Gerd Bachner told a press conference on Saturday that people “must not be afraid” when they visit the building.
“We have to do more to ensure safety,” the provost said. However, that personnel should still act “proportionately”.
From 1 March, there will be a ban on bringing large suitcases, travel bags, and hiking bags into the cathedral. Kölnischer Rundschau also reports that a private security firm will join the traditional cathedral vergers in policing worshippers, including performing random bag and pocket checks at the entrances to the building.
The provost declined to say exactly what size bag would be too big, and the cathedral will not be installing security doors, he added.
The cathedral square was the scene of mass sex assaults on New Year’s Eve 2015, with over 1,000 criminal complaints filed yet few arrests and convictions made.
Statistics in December showed 1,222 criminal complaints had been investigated by authorities, some 500 of which were related to sexual assault. The rest were in relation to other violence offences, as well as theft.
The area was also turned into a “security zone” in Christmas 2016, with armed police and checkpoints, to prevent terror attacks similar to the Berlin Christmas market attack.
The security measures were the first time ever that bags of worshippers were searched, with the cathedral provost saying at the time: “You have to get used to it.”
Now, some of those measures are to become permanent, although the cathedral says it has yet to sign a contract with a security firm.
The security guards, the provost adds, need not be Catholic, although they will be expected to be Christian of some denomination.