BELMONT CENTRAL — Dozens of people flocked to a Northwest Side church Tuesday to get a look at what many are calling a miracle — “tears” streaming down the face of a painting of the Virgin Mary.
Since Sunday morning, people have flocked to Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church at 6041 W. Diversey in the Belmont Central neighborhood to see for themselves. The church is currently in foreclosure, adding to the intrigue.
A church caretaker was getting the church ready for the morning service Sunday when she noticed what she described as tears from a painting of Virgin Mary near the altar, according to church office manager Maria Rigas.
“She goes around and lights the candles and goes from icon to icon, kissing them. She kissed the icon of the Virgin Mary and her lips were wet,” Rigas said.
The caretaker told the church pastor, the Rev. Nicholas Jonas, who posted photos to Facebook.
“As I was sitting in my office today Athena ran in to tell me to come out. Our Icon of the Panagia is weeping!
We cannot leave this Sacred Space!!!!” the pastor posted.
The tears were more prominent on Sunday, Rigas said, but there were still signs on Tuesday as the faithful assembled.
Nick Kiriklakis, a retired general contractor who once served on the church’s board, said he saw the tears and believes it’s a message.
“She’s trying to tell us that there is God and we better believe it. She is sad that we are losing the church,” Kiriklakis said, referring to the fact that the church is $8 million in debt and in foreclosure.
In fact, although the church was packed on Tuesday morning, the Rev. Jonas and most of the clergy were Downtown in federal bankruptcy court, trying to get a judge to give them a little more time to raise money before it is sold.
Asked if the tears on the painting could be a publicity stunt to raise money, Rigas said “If you’re a believer, you accept it. If you don’t believe, there is nothing I can tell you to make you accept it, it’s that simple.”
Famed Chicago meteorologist Tom Skilling, reached by phone, said there may be a simple explanation.
“I don’t mean to discredit it, but I think we’d be foolish if we didn’t ask about the weather conditions. Look, we’ve got tropical air coming into the area, the humidity is on the rise. That would be the one factor that I would cite as possibly contributing to this. Whether that has anything to do with it, I don’t know. I’d like to believe it is something divine, I don’t know,” Skilling said.
Lakeview resident Shirley Quinn, a retired bank worker who normally attends church at Holy Name Cathedral, sat in a pew towards the back of the church and prayed a rosary. She said she was notified about the crying Virgin Mary by a friend and came to see it for herself.
“I saw the streaks on her face. I do believe it because I have goosebumps, but it is worthless if you are not a believer,” Quinn said.
Anastasios Nassis, a retired restaurant owner and 48-year parishioner at Holy Trinity, said he believed it.
“About 30 years ago there was a church on Narragansett, close by here, where the icons were crying,” he recalled.