Greek Orthodox church sold amidst reports of weeping icon

Chicago, September 11, 2019     

In a blow to the community, the parishioners of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Chicago have 75 days to vacate their current premises after a bankruptcy court judge approved the sale of the holy church on Tuesday.

The church will go to Universal Life Church for $2.5million, reports ABC 7 Chicago.

Universal Life Church is a non-denominational religious organization that seems to most focused on ordaining anyone who asks, regardless of religious background or lack thereof.

Holy Trinity is the second oldest Greek Orthodox Church in the country and the oldest in the Midwest, according to ABC7. The church wound up in bankruptcy court after it was unable to collect the necessary $1.6 million in pledge and subsequently to secure a bank loan. It managed to avoid foreclosure last year after a generous anonymous donation, but an issue with the money arose, forcing the church to go up for sale again.

Parishioners had been hoping for miracle, especially after an icon of the Most Holy Theotokos was reported to be weeping on Sunday, first noticed by the church caretaker.

“There’s something she's trying to tell us, so we're just going to seal our lips and listen to what she has to say,” said Fr. Nick Jonas. “I can’t explain why she is tearing, but I do know as human beings we are usually crying for two reasons: either joy or sorrow,” he added.

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Reports of the icon immediately hit social media and the local news and visitors began to stream in. Already on Sunday, about 300 people had come, with more arriving on Monday.

However, hasty reports have proven problematic as well. Although Fr. Nick reports that Metropolitan Nathanael of Chicago inspected the icon on Sunday and confirmed the legitimacy of the tears, the Metropolis nevertheless issued a statement yesterday, saying: “In such cases, Orthodox clergy know to immediately inform their bishop so that he may take appropriate steps to discern the nature of the phenomenon… Unfortunately, appropriate discernment was not used in this particular instance, and an announcement was hastily posted on Facebook, which subsequently led to negative public attention.”

The statement notes that the icon is being kept at the Metropolis and will be returned after a period of prayer and examination, with a statement on what it observes.

Another statement issued yesterday notes: “While hard choices remain and nothing is yet final, the Metropolis will continue to work closely with the Holy Trinity community to continue Parish life and ministries at a location chosen by the community.”

“We are hoping that we will relocate perhaps not immediately, but we are hopeful that something good will come out of this,” Fr. Jonas said.

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