Source: Global News
By Amanda Kelly
MONTREAL — Montreal’s Greek community is grieving after Koimisis Tis Theotokou Greek Orthodox Church in Park Extension was destroyed by a major fire Monday night.
At around 8 p.m., over 70 Montreal firefighters were called to the church on De L’Épée Avenue.
By 9:30 p.m., the fire was confirmed to be a three-alarm fire.
Onlookers watched helplessly as glass shattered and firefighters battled the blaze.
The church was evacuated and no one was injured.
It wasn’t until close to 11:30 p.m. that the fire was brought under control.
Adjoining streets were blocked off to traffic and the power was cut off in the neighbourhood.
Officials are investigating the cause and origin of the fire.
Montreal police spokesperson Mario Frappier told Global News that there was no reason to suspect the fire was suspicious.
“We know there was a celebration last night, and the blaze started right after. Was it a candle that wasn’t well extinguished or something like that?”
Koimisis Tis Theotokou Church was constructed in 1962. In 1968, it was purchased from the Apostolic Church of Canada and transformed into a Greek Orthodox church and featured an ornate guilded interior.
A vigil is planned at the church for 8 p.m. on Tuesday evening to show support for the Hellenic community.
Justin Trudeau, the MP for the district of Papineau, which includes the neighbourhood of Park Extension, tweeted his condolences: “Tragic news about fire at Koimisis Tis Theotokou Church (Panagitsa) in Park Ex. My thoughts go out to Father Nikolaos & the entire community.”
Gerry Sklavounos, the MLA for Laurier-Dorion also shared his sadness over the loss of the church on Twitter: “Québec’s Greek community is in mourning as fire has just stolen from us our Koimisis tis Theotokou church in Park-Ex.”
Montreal mayor Denis Coderre shared his condolences for the Hellenic community on Tuesday, saying, “It was an icon, a place for gathering, and of course every time we have that type of tragedy we feel for it.”
Mary Deros, the city councillor for the neighbourhood of Park Extension told Global News: “Words can’t express the feeling we feel, this is a great loss for us.”
Many Montrealers also took to social media to share their memories and photos of the beloved church.
Do you have memories to share about this beloved church? Please feel welcome to share them in the comments below or email your thoughts and photos here.
“Ah – another place with many memories for me is now destroyed.”
“I feel sad for the many Greeks who have baptized, married, and said goodbye to their loved ones here, and who forever associate this building with their memories and their lives.”
“The Panagitsa was not just a church, it was a place of community, love and respect. It may be burned, but it’s legacy will last.”
“The prayers, the wishes and the happy moments lived in this church will never be lost.”
“After seeing my church in flames, I’m no longer the same.”
“My heart is breaking over the news of #Panagitsa.”
“What a sad loss for the Greek community. Our beautiful Panagitsa church is now a memory.”
“We will rebuild, just like our parents and grand parents did before us.”