Source: The National Herald | Theodore Kalmoukas
BOSTON – Unknown intruder or intruders attempted to rob the St. Irene Chrysovalantou Church in Astoria on Sunday, Nov. 13 around 9PM. It seems that they entered from a basement door, but they left with no plunders because the alarm went off.
The intruders went directly to the icon of St. Irene – which is filled with valuable gold and silver items reflecting expressions of faith. They did not manage to break the casing because it is bulletproof and speciallymade. They attempted to break the icon of the Mother of God on the iconostasis but they did not have any luck with that either, damaging only its glass case.
Bishop Elias of Philomelion told TNH that “it seems that they entered from the back door of the Church from the kitchen side and then they came up into the Church and they attempted to break the icon of St. Irene, but the glass is bulletproof and they did not succeed. Then they broke the glass case of the icon of the Theotokos on the right side of the iconostasis but they did not manage to take anything.” Elias also said “the alarm went off, the police came and took fingerprints, and the investigation continues.”
Elias was in his office across from the Church during the time of the break-in. He said “I ran into the church, we went downstairs in the basement, and we helped by providing information to the detectives.”
Elias said he had no idea about who the intruder(s) might be and added that “the Church remains open from 8 in the morning to 8 at night and of course many people visit during these hours. Probably someone well-dressed can come in pretending that he is praying but actually he might look around to familiarize himself [with the Church as its valuables], who knows.” Elias also said that “there were a few dollars in the tray at the place of the candles that were not taken; it seems they went directly to [take]the icon of St. Irene.”
The St. Irene icon was stolen in 1991 and it was returned a few days later as a UPS package without the valuable golden and silver items. Dr. John Kotsaridis, Chief Secretary of the Patriarchal Monastery, told TNH that “other attempts were made in the past as well to steal from the icon.”
The icon was painted in 1921 by an Orthodox monk on Mount Athos, Greece. It was brought to the United States in 1972 by Metropolitan Paisios of Tyana, the former abbot of the Patriarchal Monastery in Astoria.