Jewellery worth more than $100,000, donated by Greek Orthodox faithful, has been stolen from the Holy Monastery of Panagia Kamariani, in Red Hill Victoria.
Gold jewellery and valuable ornaments that adorned the icon of Virgin Mary was seized when offenders broke into the Mornington Peninsula church at 3.20 pm on Wednesday afternoon, police reported.
A sealed glass box which contained an icon of the Virgin Mary was smashed and rings, chains, bracelets, bangles and crosses stolen. It is believed the value of the stolen jewellery is around $100,000.
Parishioners had left the jewellery as offerings to the Virgin Mary, starting from 1987.
In disbelief, Reverend Father Eleftherios Tatsis from the Holy Monastery of Panagia Kamariani told Neos Kosmos that the burglary took no more than six minutes.
“As we understand after police investigation, the offender walked in the church, while another person most probably waited for him in the car further away.
“It was me here and our cleaner, who has been maintaining the church for last 28 years.”
Some time around 1.30 pm to 2 pm, a group of few regular faithful visited the church, alongside a doctor from Greece, on his visit to Melbourne for the AIDS conference.
“The visitors left just before 3 pm. I went inside the church to put out some candles. I returned to my office, just to realise I had forgotten my keys inside the church.
“The offender, as the police believes, probably at that point broke the glass, and took the jewellery in his pockets.
“As I went back to church, I kissed the Icon and saw the glass broken and jewellery missing,” Father Tatsis told Neos Kosmos.
Grateful that the miraculous icon of Panagia Kamariani hasn’t been stolen, Father Tatsis said the police suspects the offenders were drug addicts.
“They also said it’s people who have come to the church before and knew where the icon and the jewellery was.
“30 years here, with the doors wide open, day and night, nothing like this has ever occurred. We never put the cameras in. Now they took it all in front of my eyes,” Father Eleftherios told Neos Kosmos in disbelief.
“I feel sorry for those who did it, but they won’t see any good.”
The stolen offerings carry sentimental importance for those who donated it and can’t be valued in dollars, Father Tatsis said.
“It’s offerings to Our Lady of believers – Greek Orthodox and non. Panagia has united the Greek people here.”
The news of the burglary at Panagia Kamariani caused disbelief and anger of numerous Neos Kosmos readers. Maria Evangelakos Gogov wrote on Neos Kosmos Facebook page:
“We are truly living in dark times….Each piece of jewellery that adorned that icon was given to the Virgin Mary, along with many prayers, removed from a
sick or dying person for The Panagia to help them in their time of pain. So many miracles have happened and so many people lost… Whoever’s hands stole
this jewellery is yet to realise that in doing so…their souls have been stolen by the devil himself.”
There were many of those who, in the spirit of orthodoxy, showed their compassion for offenders.
“Being Christian we should show compassion. Panayia would want us to that. To do this deed they would have been desperate. Let us pray for their souls.
Panayia would show compassion and pray for them,” Maria Calokerinos said.
Police are now appealing for public with information to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential report at www.crimestoppers.vic.com.au