Police are trying to understand the motives behind a shooting at an Orthodox church in a residential area of Lyon on Saturday. A priest was seriously wounded in the attack. One suspect has been arrested and an investigation is underway.
An attacker armed with a sawn-off shotgun seriously wounded a Greek Orthodox priest in a shooting outside a church in the French city of Lyon on Saturday.
Nikolaos Kakavelaki, 52, was closing his church mid-afternoon when he was attacked and is now in a serious condition in hospital, said a police source who asked not to be named.
The attacker fled the scene but Lyon's public prosecutor later announced that a suspect had been arrested.
"A person who could correspond to the description given by the initial witnesses has been placed in policy custody," prosecutor Nicolas Jacquet said, adding that the suspect had not been carrying a weapon when he was arrested.
The priest was shot twice in the chest at point-blank range, according to sources close to the inquiry.
Motives for the attack unclear
"At this stage, no hypothesis is being ruled out, nor favoured," Jacquet said.
The Lyon prosecutor's office said in a statement that witnesses, and a passing police patrol, heard gunshots then "saw an individual fleeing and discovered a man with gunshot wounds at the back door of the church".
The prosecutors said that an investigation had been launched, and it remains "in close contact with the national anti-terrorist prosecution".
The small, art-deco style Orthodox church is situated in a residential area of Lyon which was especially quiet due to the new lockdown measures introduced in France on Friday to stem the growing coronavirus pandemic.
'A bullet aimed at the heart of freedom'
In Paris, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin opened a crisis cell meeting to consider the situation.
Archbishop Ieronymos, the head of the Greek Orthodox church, denounced a "horror that defies human logic".
"Intolerant and fanatic extremists, fundamentalists of violence and death use religion as a bullet which aims at the heart of freedom and especially the freedom of belief of others," he told reporters in Athens.
European Council President Charles Michel condemned "this new abominable act in Lyon".
He added in a tweet that "in Europe, the freedom of conscience is guaranteed for all and must be respected, violence is intolerable and must be condemned".
Never bow to violence and terrorism
EU Parliament President David Sassoli said that "Europe will never bow to violence and terrorism".
Saturday's shooting comes after three people were killed in a knife rampage inside a church in the southern town of Nice on Thursday.
A Tunisian suspect was shot and injured by police near the scene of that attack.
The attack comes at a time when France is already on edge after the beheading of a teacher earlier this month who had showed his class a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed.