Police with tracking dogs, and other hindrances for churches during Christmas and New Year’s time

03-01-2024

Central Europe

Lennart Nijenhuis, CNE.news

Police in front of the Cologne Cathedral in Germany. Photo AFP, Ina Fassbender

Terror threats have hindered churches from giving free access to visitors during the December holidays. In at least four European countries, the police were on high alert.

The German police arrested five suspects in Cologne. They are under suspicion because of strange behaviour in the neighbourhood of the giant Cathedral. The threat seems to come from an Islamic group.

The Cologne Cathedral is one of the most visited buildings in the world. People come and go to have a look or to come for a Catholic confession. For a terrorist, it would be an attractive location to make many casualties. But it is also a highly symbolic place for the Christian tradition of Germany.

Even before Christmas, the church had already been searched by dogs, to find explosives, Tagesschau reported. But nothing was found.

Numerous policemen have been ordered to protect the church and the surroundings, the Westdeutschen Rundfunk (WDR) reports. On Sunday (New Year’s Eve), the mass had to be done under strict security measures. On Wednesday, January 3rd, the monument was still closed to tourists.

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Toni Faber. Photo Dompfarre, Suzy Stöckl

In neighbouring Austria, there was a comparable terror threat. The Stephen’s Dome in Vienna was under high protection because of a threat from a Muslim network. Three people have been arrested.

The cathedral priest, Toni Faber, thanked the authorities for their care. He did a New Year’s Eve service on Sunday afternoon. After that, the church was locked and closed for the thousands of visitors in the Austrian capital, as Katholisch.at reports.

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Archive photo of Norwegian church with police protection. Photo EPA, Torstein Boe

In Norway, the police gave special protection to churches after rumours of terror threats. Vart Land reports that the Christmas market in the Cathedral in Trondheim received particular attention, as did the Cathedral in Oslo. The police were even present during a New Year’s service on Monday. The threat against Jewish and Christian targets are just higher, the security services reported.

The national headquarters of the Church of Norway said in a press release that it was still safe to go to church.

Some sources report about special protections in Madrid in Spain. Even in early December, the police were on higher alert because of possible threats against worship meetings. The Spanish ministry of Internal Affairs had special measures from December 18th, knows the German newspaper Bild.

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