A Greek Orthodox priest was shot outside a church in the French city of Lyon on Saturday. The attacker armed with a shotgun left the priest seriously wounded.
Nikolaos Kakavelaki, 52, was closing his Lyon 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 immediately 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.
According to sources close to the inquiry, the priest was shot twice in the chest at point-blank range.
However, the motive for the attack is yet to be known. “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 begun and it remains “in close contact with the national anti-terrorist prosecution”.
In Paris, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has opened a crisis cell meeting to consider the situation.
In the meantime, 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”.
The shooting comes after three people were killed in a knife rampage inside a church in the southern town of Nice on Thursday.