Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the killing, describing the two knifemen who slit the throat of Father Jacques Hamel, 85, and seriously injured an 86-year-old parishioner, as its “soldiers”.
French president François Hollande – who met faith leaders and spoke with Pope Francis following the attack – said his country was at “war” with IS, adding: “To attack a church, to kill a priest, is to profane the Republic.”
Speaking during a visit to Italy yesterday, Mrs May called on European states to step up intelligence-sharing, which she said was “one of the best ways in which we can work together to ensure that we deal with this threat, to protect our citizens, but also to ensure that the terrorists do not win”.
She added: “They are trying to attack our values. They are attacking our way of life. They will not prevail.”
Mrs May described Father Hamel’s murder as “yet another brutal reminder of the threat that we all face”.
She said: “Following on from the atrocities in Nice and Germany, it reinforces the need for action both in Europe and on the wider global stage. In Europe, we must increase further our intelligence co-operation and share vital information swiftly and effectively, enabling us to better protect ourselves from these terrorists who seek to destabilise us.”
It emerged that one of the two attackers shot dead by police in Normandy was wearing an electronic surveillance tag at the time of the attack, having been released from prison where he had been held after twice attempting to travel to Syria.
Prosecutor Francois Molins said 19-year-old Adel Kermiche’s tag was deactivated for a few hours every morning, and the attack took place while it was not operating.
Meanwhile, the National Police Chiefs’ Council has urged Britain’s Christian community to be on the alert.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said: “There is no specific intelligence relating to attacks against the Christian community in the UK … Following recent events in France, we are reiterating our protective security advice to Christian places of worship and have circulated specific advice.”