Leading up to the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Catholic Churches in France have been placed under police protection and have been strongly advised to increase security in fear of a potential Islamist terror attack.
In a joint message to Catholic dioceses Tuesday, France's Interior Ministry and bishops' conference warned that "every religious gathering, whatever its magnitude … is vulnerable today to acts of malevolence, which may extend to terrorism."
"Observing simple rules may allow you, without excessive distrust, to ensure your security and that of your community, while preserving the calm (and) sharing openness to others, which is needed for maintaining your faith and religious practices," the message continued.
Catholic laity were also heartbreakingly advised to keep an eye out for suspicious behaviors during Mass, such as people wearing large coats in the height of summer or people who appeared "very nervous" or had "an unusual interest in the event or the building." Communicants were also advised to refrain from leaving bags in the pews when going up for communion.
Security increases at Catholic Churches and Jewish places of worship have been on the rise since the terrorist attacks by Islamist extremists at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and the Kosher supermarket earlier this year.
After two Islamists were prevented from attacking a church near Villejuif in April, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls placed Notre Dame cathedral and Sacre Coeur basilica under permanent police along with 178 Catholic Churches.
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