Greek Orthodox community devastated by church blaze
Published Tuesday, April 14, 2015 7:20AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, April 14, 2015 10:28PM EDT
Montreal's Greek Orthodox community is vowing to rebuild after a devastating fire swept through one of its most important – and most beautiful – churches Monday night.
At about 8 p.m., after the evening services, a blaze broke out in the Koimisis Tis Theotokou (Dormition of the Virgin Mary) in Park Extension.
The community gathered in shock and sadness Tuesday to mourn its loss, resolving to restore the place of worship.
As Angela Konsoulas approached the scorched remains of the building on de l'Epee and St. Roch, she cried out in sadness over the devastation ofthe church where her grandchildren were baptized.
“I don't believe it. I can't believe it,” she said, raw with emotion.
The church was built in 1962 and taken over by the Greek Orthodox community in 1968, for decades considered a jewel of Montreal's Greek Orthodox community.
About 80 firefighters battled the blaze, which caused major damage to the structure. The fire consumed wood and steel with an intense heat, leaving the structure too unstable to enter.
The church's priest Fr. Nikolaos Papageorgiou escaped unharmed, but had to be treated for shock.
“I hope God will give him strength to pass this catastrophe,” said Konsoulas.
It's very sad, it's very difficult to see that a jewel of our churches, one of the most beautiful small churches in Montreal where people pay respects to visit because of the beauty within is now this," said City Councillor Mary Deros, who said she had been worshipping there a few days earlier. "My daughter was baptized here. My son got married here. We buried my mom here, we had her funeral here. Saturday night I attended service here for Easter and see the church in ruins, it breaks my heart."
“It’s very bad,” said another man watching on. “I got married there with my wife in 1970. We baptized five kids there. Now this is the result, the Lord knows, this is bad for the Greek community.”
“Sentimentally to us, it’s a disaster, a catastrophe,” said another man at the scene, who said that many Montrealers of Greek heritage will be devastated by the disaster. “It’s their own church, it’s something that belongs to them and they belong to it, now they don’t have it anymore.”
The cause of the fire is being investigated.
“At this point we have really nothing to believe it might be criminal,” said Montreal police commander Mario Frappier. “Was it a candle that wasn't extinguished properly? That's fairly possible but really we don't know at this point.”
Overcome with emotion Monday night, the priest returned to the church Tuesday to meet with investigators.
Deros said she's already heard from former parishioners from far and wide, vowing to raise funds to rebuild.
Hundreds of people gathered together in the community Tuesday night in a vigil to mourn the loss of their spiritual centre.
Right now "live" at panagitsa church in park extension montreal. About a thousand people paying respect to a landmark.Posted by Chris Hiotis on Tuesday, 14 April 2015
This is what the inside of Koimisis Tis Theotokou Church looks like after the fire that destroyed it. I want to cry. pic.twitter.com/40Mi3UogP2— Toula Drimonis (@ToulasTake) April 14, 2015