Less than an hour after a prayer service wrapped up, parishioners watched as a cornerstone of the Montreal Greek community — the Koimisis Tis Theotokou Greek Orthodox Church — went up in flames.
"I got the news at 1 a.m. and cried all night. It's like a death. It's just awful," said Polly Tsonis who grew up going to the church.
Dozens gathered on a curb in Parc Extension on Monday evening, clutching each other as they watched their church burn.
Sad to learn of the fire at Koimisis Tis Theotokou Church, a beautiful & important site for the Greek community and the entire city.
— Tom Mulcair (@ThomasMulcair) April 14, 2015
"It's one of our Greek Orthodox churches that is really a pearl. There were so many pieces of art and religious icons inside," said park Extension city councillor Mary Deros.
Parishioners often referred to the church as Panagitsa.
Members of the community crossed themselves as they walked by the burnt out remains of the church on Tuesday morning.
"Hopefully it's going to be rebuilt and hopefully the right people get involved. We're like a big community in Montreal so I hope everybody's going to pitch in and get it rebuilt," said churchgoer Athina Potamytis.
Church members said Father Nikolaos Papageorgiou worked tirelessly to improve the church, decorating, as well as maintaining and repairing the building located at 7700 De L'Épée.
Catherine Constantinidis, a member of the Greek community, was born in Parc Extension in 1979.
"It was not only my baptismal church, and in the future the place where I'd also be married. It [was also] a gathering place for all the Greek community," she said.
"I can assure you every Greek is mourning the loss of the church."