CHICAGO (CBS) — Hundreds of worshipers have flocked to Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood after what appeared to be tears were seen pouring from the eyes of a painting of the Virgin Mary.
The church is set to close its doors this week due to bankruptcy, and many parishioners believe the painting is weeping tears of sadness because the church is facing foreclosure.
But the Greek Orthodox Church Metropolis of Chicago issued a statement Tuesday night saying it did not approve of how the matter was handled.
The church’s caretaker first saw what appears to be oil or some other type of liquid streaming from the Virgin Mary’s eyes on Sunday. He ran into the pastor’s office saying, “Our Icon of the Panagia is weeping! We cannot leave this sacred space.”
Some believe what happened is a sign from God or maybe a hint something is coming to save the church, which is about $8 million in debt.
But the Greek Orthodox Church said in a statement that if a church icon appears to be weeping, there is as protocol that is supposed to be observed and in this case was not.
“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. When similar events were discovered in the Metropolis in the past, such news was not shared until months later in order to discern that what was observed was truly a sign from God,” the church said in a statement.
“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 church continued.
The Church has asked the parish for temporary possession of the icon. After a period of prayer and examination, the icon will be returned and the church will issue an official statement about what was observed, according to a news release.
For the past year, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox has been fighting to remain in its 61-year-old church building at the corner of Diversey and Meade avenues. A generous donation last year helped the church avoid being sold at auction.
But a bankruptcy hearing was held Tuesday, at which point the church was sold. The church is scheduled to close its doors on Thursday.
A GoFundMe page is raising money for the church, but has raised only about $10,600 towards its goal of $250,000 since last December.