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Visit to the weeping Madonna icon in Toronto
by Connie Hargrave

Hargrave reports on reactions to this miraculous phenomenon, occurring as it does amid church discord. 

Since early September 1996, an icon of the Virgin Mary has reportedly been weeping in a small Greek Orthodox church in Toronto, Canada (see also Share International, October 1996, p. 9). This occurrence initially attracted crowds of people who, drawn by the press coverage, formed long line-ups in the streets. In turn, the media dwelled on the problems the crowds were causing to the neighbourhood, and on exposing the financial and other troubles of the church. Although the crowds have now abated, the church remains open to the public during the week to accommodate visitors.

Arriving just as the Sunday service was ending, Joseph Huard, a co-worker from London, Ontario, and I entered the church to observe the picture of the Madonna, apparently a copy of an icon from 750 AD. The picture is of a mother and child, both richly adorned with golden clothing and jewelry. There are indeed oily streaks which start in the crown area of the Madonna, and stop about halfway down the picture, although at that time they did not appear to be moving. We asked a woman who attends the church about the phenomenon, and she said that the 'tears' start and stop several times a day. Small pieces of cotton have been placed at the bottom to catch the 'tears'. A protective piece of glass now covers the icon, so we could not inspect the cotton or the tears by touching them.

We approached the secretary of the church, Tom Xanthopoulos, in order to arrange an interview with the pastor, the Reverend Ieronymos Katseas. This was, however, not possible, in part because Reverend Katseas does not speak English, but also because he is a defendant in a court case over his right to claim the pulpit of the church. Mr. Xanthopoulos said that he was not at liberty to speak either, and showed his displeasure about the nature of the publicity which has surrounded the phenomenon...

What did the church secretary say about the icon? "For me it is a miracle, but don't believe me. Go inside and see for yourself. That is where the power is," he said, pointing to the icon and adding: "The church is full now on Sundays - it did not used to be." Mr. Xanthopoulos has been visibly affected by recent events, and he continued: "This is supposed to be a democracy. If people don't believe, why can't they respect my beliefs and simply go away without causing harm? Even the police tried to destroy us, and the reports in the newspapers about a mess caused in the neighbourhood by the line-ups were all made up." He remained adamant that he did not care what we believed, simply urging us to make up our own minds. He said that the church would remain open to the public until such time as the icon's tears stop.

The icon of the Virgin Mary has been "weeping" from the crown area of the head since September 1996.

From the March 1997 issue of Share International

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First published April 1999, Last modified: 15-Oct-2005