Source: The National Herald
NEW YORK – Archbishop Demetrios of America, on the afternoon of Sunday, May 21 visited the fire-damaged Church of the Transfiguration of the Savior in Corona, Queens and viewed the immense damage suffered.
The Archbishop was accompanied by the head of the Transfiguration community, Fr. George Anastasiou, the Philoptochos Society President Eleni Katehis, the Treasurer Peter Pallas, Kelly Pappas, and other members of the community. The Consul General of Cyprus, Ambassador Vasilios Philippou also attended the viewing of the fire damage.
The fire, as the National Herald wrote, was reported at noon on Friday, May 19 and the first clues say that it began from the northeastern point of the church and spread to the sanctuary. However, the final report on the real cause of the fire is pending and Fire Department officials will inform the community leaders on the findings of the investigation by Tuesday, May 23 at the latest.
Although the crews managed to clean up the debris from the temple, the smell of smoke was still intense. The executives and the parishioners, though upset by the damage, are determined to rebuild an even better church.
After viewing the church, the Archbishop visited the office of the community where Fr. George showed the artoforion, the Holy Gospel and other books, the anointing oil and the relic of St. Nektarios, the reliquary with the ashes of the remains of St. Matrona, and St. Artemius, and other objects that were saved from the fire.
The Archbishop urged Fr. George and the community leaders to keep all of this and create a museum. Fr. George expressed his thanks to the priests of all the communities who expressed their readiness to help and offered their churches to the community for the fulfillment of the mysteries.
The Archbishop, responding to a question from TNH pointed out, “This is the third church that was faced with fire in a short space of time. We had St. Demetrius in Merrick, followed by St. Nicholas in West Babylon, Long Island, and now we have the Transfiguration Church of Corona. It is a very sad and tragic picture, because the damaged church is like seeing a man full of injuries, burns.”
His Eminence continued, “For it is the place of worship, which has an element of sanctity, and a fire is always disturbing, an assault. It is a projection against the sanctuary. It is due to human weakness or I do not know what else, but it is a very sad picture. In our church there is a constant blessing for protection from many other things, including the fire.”
“We were here during Holy Week here in the same place – in a beautiful church filled with people – and now we are seeing a sad spectacle here. It still smells from the fire, the church is dark and it is a very negative image. But as happened with St. Demetrios in Merrick and St. Nicholas in West Babylon, we are sure the church will be better than it was before,” he added.
The Archbishop relied on the verses of Dionysios Solomos, “The Chasm opened the earthquake immediately,” and among other things, he said, “So here it will be better, but it will take time and effort.”
Asked if the damage to the Corona church is greater than the damage to the two other churches mentioned above, he said, “I saw all three churches immediately after the disaster. In the beginning, more or less, they look the same, then when the investigation is done, we will know the extent of the damage.”
He then referred to community solidarity and noted, “Today, we performed the services in the Church of Saints Constantine and Helen in Jackson Heights and told them at the end: ‘We are dealing with a sudden event, can we pass a special collection plate and say that the first help came from this church? And $800 was collected. It is very important that one church is recruited to help the other.
“We are faced with a problem for the parish, the people have to attend church in other places. It is a very negative event to which we have to respond by showing solidarity, support, and initiative to do something better than we have, always having as a final and absolute example St. Nicholas at the World Trade Center.”
The Consul General of Cyprus, Ambassador Vasilios Philippou, noted, “Today we have witnessed the destruction of the church of Corona, which is a historic church with a faithful flock. Metamorphosis as it is called will be transformed into a new church with the help and love of the Greek-Christian community.”
He added, “The damage, as it turns out, is great and the hagiography of the church will have to be re-built. We pray that the faithful will find the power again and rebuild the altar of their faith.”