A fire struck Greek Orthodox church Koimisis Tis Theotokou in Montreal April 13, Easter Monday for the Orthodox Church. Photo by Alan Hustak

Montreal Greek Orthodox 'jewel' destroyed in Easter fire

By  Alan Hustak, Catholic Register Special
  • April 15, 2015

MONTREAL - “Something died in all of us today,” said Montreal city councillor Mary Deros as she surveyed the burned-out shell of Koimisis Tis Theotokou Church.

The cherished Greek Orthodox church in the city’s Park Extension district was destroyed by fire April 13, Easter Monday for the Orthodox Church.  

“It is difficult to see that jewel of a building, one of the most beautiful small churches around charred like this,” said Deros.

The church, affectionately known as Panagista, was a pilgrimage site for Canadian Greeks. With an interior decorated with iconography, frescoes and religious artifacts, the church was regarded as one of the most beautiful Greek Orthodox sites in Canada.

Deros, who attended the Greek Orthodox Easter vigil at the church April 11, said the church will be rebuilt, but to restore it to its former beauty will be quite a challenge.  

“It was recognized as a beautiful and important site not only for the Greek community, but for the entire city,” said NDP leader Tom Mulcair.

The church is located in Justin Trudeau’s Papineau Constituency, and the Liberal leader also conveyed his sympathies to Rev. Nokolaos Papageoriou, the parish priest responsible for much of the ornate interior decor that has been reduced to rubble.

Metropolitan Archbishop Sotirios, speaking to the Montreal Gazette from Toronto, vowed to rebuild the church. He called it a shrine for the Greek Orthodox people.

The church was originally built in 1962 for a Polish Catholic community, which sold it to the Greeks in 1968.

The day after the fire, the street was filled with parishioners, who crossed themselves as they approached the building, many of them with tears in their eyes.

“I was baptized there, my dad’s funeral was held there,” said Victoria Kartzian.

“I was there for vespers in the evening. Everything was so beautiful, the icons in the candlelight. Shortly after I got home I heard something like gunshots, I thought someone was celebrating Greek Easter, and then I learned the church was on fire.”  

Speculation in the community is that the fire may have been started by one of the hundreds of candles that were lit before the icons during the evening devotion.

"We are simply devastated. It is a big shock, especially coming Easter weekend,” said Niki Nikorakais.

“We will rebuild. It is a church for the entire community.”  

Michael Georgiou agreed.

“When a church burns it affects the entire community, whether you worship there or not. Everybody is affected.”

Until their church is rebuilt, parishioners will worship at the Evangelismos Tis Theotokou Greek Orthodox church two blocks away.

(Hustak is a freelance writer in Montreal.)

Comments (2)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Very sad, or course..But it also reminds us that church is not a building, it's people. How people react to what happened, how much they support and love each other, this is the strength and beauty of the church that can never be destroyed by any...

Very sad, or course..But it also reminds us that church is not a building, it's people. How people react to what happened, how much they support and love each other, this is the strength and beauty of the church that can never be destroyed by any fire. Don't be too much attached to a stone building.

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This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Only an ugly building burned down, no life was lost; get a life and count your blessings instead of crying like primitive idiots.

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