Saint Irene Chrysovalantou Icon in Queens, NY (Joe Nickell)

Joe Nickell is an expert in exposing and debunking "paranormal" and religious frauds.
Joe Nickell is an expert in exposing and debunking “paranormal” and religious frauds.

Another Greek Orthodox icon seems to have caught the weeping condition while on loan to the Chicago Greek Church of St. Athanasios and John the Baptist. This began on October 17, 1990, when the icon of St. Irene Chrysovalantou, patron saint of the sick and of peace, supposedly began to cry immediately after a service for peace in the Persian Gulf. Returned to its home (the church of a breakaway Orthodox faction) in Astoria, Queens, New York, on October 23, the icon attracted additional thousands of pilgrims over the following days as it was reputed to continue weeping.However, the tears dried after the Gulf War ended.

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Although an investigation was refused at the time, on May 11, 1991, I was able to examine the icon, under rather limited conditions, in company with members of the New York Area Skeptics (NYASk). A previous NYASk ultra-violet examination had revealed only some streaks and markings that were clearly not the result of weeping. Our examination included stereo-microscopic viewing which also failed to show traces of any tearstains.Subsequently, forensic analyst John F. Fischer and I obtained a videotape of the earlier, October 1990, phenomenon. At first we regarded the evidence as too ambiguous to assess, but further study indicated that there were wet-looking streaks that seemed to have been on the painted panel rather than the clear plexiglass cover. It appeared to us that the two “rivulets” flowed down the face just to the outside of the eyes and that the scale of the “tears” was greatly disproportionate to the diminutive size of St. Irene’s face. These observations suggested to us a rather crude hoax.4

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A curious sequel to the story of the St. Irene icon came just before Christmas 1991. On December 23, three armed men and a woman burst into the church, forced two priests and four others to lie on the front altar, pried the icon from its case, and fled. Whether they sought the icon for its alleged powers, or for the estimated $800,000 value of its gold frame encrusted with jewels, could only be speculated upon. Said Bishop Vikentios:

Only we need the icon back, we don’t care for the gold of the jewels. It is a holy icon, it is a miracle icon. She is the patron saint of peace. We don’t know why the Lord allowed this to happen.6

Within a few days, however, the icon was returned—although missing the frame and most of its jewels—anonymously through the mail.

A final (?) episode in the icon saga came when representatives of the mainstream church—the traditional Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America (mentioned earlier in the stonewalling of the 1986 Chicago weeping-icon case)—suggested that the breakaway faction that owns the icon might have staged the theft as a hoax. “We have doubts about the tears and so on,” added the archdiocese’s press officer. To what appeared as a case of the pot calling the kettle black, members of the breakaway Greek Orthodox Christians of North and South America, responded that the other church was simply envious of the icon.7

…I witnessed a different illusion when I examined the St. Irene icon in Queens, New York. The glistening varnish and certain surface irregularities created a play of light that produced the appearance of weeping. A religious supplicant predisposed to see tears could, especially if carrying a candle, see in the resultant glimmering in the tiny eyes, aided by vertical cracks and other streaks, the effect of tears.Aided in part by the sad expression of St. Irene, we easily experienced the illusion of seeing tears welling up in the saint’s eyes, although a low-power stereo microscope showed us the true state of affairs.9

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NOTES

Nickell, Joe, “Magical Icons.” Chapter 3 of Looking for a Miracle: Weeping Icons, Relics, Stigmata, Visions & Healing Cures, 1993, pp. 54-55, 57.

Mireya Navarro, “Saint’s Weeping Portrait Draws Curious and the Faithful,” New York Times, November 5, 1990.

See Joe Nickell, “Weeping Icon Revisited—Still Dry-Eyed,” The New York Skeptic (Newsletter of the New York Area Skeptics), Summer 1991, pp. 6-7.

Examination of St. Irene videotape, conducted at Gotha, Florida, by Joe Nickell and John F. Fischer, August 6, 1991.

“Congregation Prays for Return of Stolen Icon,” Newark Star-Ledger, December 24, 1991.

“Greek Factions Duel over Theft of the Icon,” Newark Star-Ledger, January 2, 1992.

Nickell, “Weeping Icon Revisited,” p. 7.

Ibid.

Ibid.

"Looking for a Miracle" exposes religious frauds mainly in the Catholic Church, though it has a section on Orthodox icons mainly from Old Calendarist factions.
“Looking for a Miracle” exposes religious frauds mainly in the Catholic Church, though it has a section on Orthodox icons mainly from Old Calendarist factions.

See also:

November 20, 1990: N.Y.’s weeping icon draws area faithful http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1990-11-20/news/1990324110_1_greek-orthodox-church-weeping-icon-irene

October 31, 1990: St. Irene: Looking For A Miracle http://www.qgazette.com/news/2007-06-27/features/089.html

December 24, 1991: Queens Church Robbed of ‘Weeping’ Icon http://www.nytimes.com/1991/12/24/nyregion/queens-church-robbed-of-weeping-icon.html

1991 Dec. 24, St Irene Icon

December 25, 1991: Faithful Pray for New Miracle To Aid Stolen ‘Weeping’ Icon http://www.nytimes.com/1991/12/25/nyregion/faithful-pray-for-new-miracle-to-aid-stolen-weeping-icon.html

December 28, 1991: Church Robbed of Icon Gets Prank Calls http://www.nytimes.com/1991/12/28/nyregion/church-robbed-of-icon-gets-prank-calls.html

December 29, 1991: Astoria Sings Joyful Praises as a Lost Symbol is Found http://www.nytimes.com/1991/12/29/nyregion/astoria-sings-joyful-praises-as-a-lost-symbol-is-found.html

December 29, 1991: ’Weeping’ Icon Returned to New York City Church http://www.nytimes.com/1991/12/29/nyregion/weeping-icon-returned-to-new-york-city-church.html

1991 - St Irene Icon

December 30, 1991: ’Weeping’ Icon Returns To Prayers of Celebration http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1994-07-17/news/9407170365_1_icon-church-sanctuary-cigna

January 1, 1992: Story of the Weeping Icon Divides Greek Orthodoxy http://www.nytimes.com/1992/01/01/nyregion/story-of-the-weeping-icon-divides-greek-orthodoxy.html

January 1, 1992: Doubt Cast On Story Of `Weeping Icon` http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1992-01-01/news/9201010099_1_st-irene-chrysovalantou-bishop-vikentios-greek-orthodox-archdiocese

July 15, 1994: Questions of Belief Arise Once Again Over `Weeping Icon’ (WSJ) http://www.skepticfiles.org/skep2/iconstol.htm

July 17, 1994: `Weeping Icon’ Goes To Court, Church Sues Insurer For Refusing Its Claim http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1994-07-17/news/9407170365_1_icon-church-sanctuary-cigna

December 23, 1996: Relic Brings Clout and Miracle Seekers to a Queens Church http://www.nytimes.com/1996/12/23/nyregion/relic-brings-clout-and-miracle-seekers-to-a-queens-church.html

August 12, 1998: Church Says Burglar Sought Saint’s Icon http://www.nytimes.com/1998/08/12/nyregion/church-says-burglar-sought-saint-s-icon.html

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February 1, 2001: Astoria Greek church’s icon recovered after theft http://www.timesledger.com/stories/2001/5/20010201-archive65.html

November 9, 2010: Sister Christonymphi Speaks to Police Regarding St. Irene Chrysovalantou Monastery in Astoria http://www.monomakhos.com/sister-christonymphi-speaks-to-police-regarding-st-irene-chrysovalantou-monastery-in-astoria/

November 16, 2011: Burglary at St. Irene Chrysovalantou Church in Astoria http://ocl.org/burglary-at-st-irene-chrysovalantou-church-in-astoria/

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Paisios Loulourgas, Metropolitan of Tyana and Vikentios Malamentenios, Bishop of Apameia (NY)

NOTE: Metropolitans Paisios and Vikentios and their monastery, St. Irene Chrysovalantou, were not part of Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries. However, after they were received into the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America—it is rumored that they paid the Patriarch a large sum of money for the privilege—the two started to visit St. Anthony’s Monastery periodically. When they visited St. Anthony’s Monastery, they would also give sermons in the main Katholikon after a service (even Vespers). The speeches were always the same: Zionists, Freemasons, New World Order, Jewish conspiracies of world domination and destroying Greece and the Orthodox Church. The same rhetoric they used in their newsletters. Interestingly, shortly after their re-ordinations in 1998, the two Metropolitans apologized to the Jewish community for their anti-Semitic publications (see below). Yet, throughout the 2000s, they preached the very things they apologized for in the main church at St. Anthony’s Monastery.

Orthodox Observer May 1998

The following article is taken from: http://stnektariosmonastery.tumblr.com/post/102741630916/paisios-loulourgas-metropolitan-of-tyana-and

AJC Welcomes Statement By Greek Orthodox Old Calendarist Church Repudiating Anti-Semitism

The American Jewish Committee welcomes the recent statement by leaders of the Greek Orthodox Stavropegial Church and Monastery of St. Irene Chrysovalantou which expresses regret for the use of anti-Semitic remarks and stereotypes in its Church body newspaper, The Voice of Orthodoxy.

The May 21st statement of Metropolitan Paisios, whose group is based in Astoria, New York, noted that in 1993 and 1994 “our publications did indeed reflect an unenlightened attitude toward Jews, perpetuating some anti-Semitic myths whose origins extend back to medieval times. We categorically deny these lies, and genuinely seek forgiveness for having communicated such un-Christian sentiments. We categorically reject all forms of anti-Semitism.”

Bishop Vikentios, another leader of the group also known as the Old Calendarist Church because it follows the Julian calendar instead of the Gregorian calendar, echoed the Metropolitan’s views. “We are saddened and deeply ashamed by these past statements regarding Jews. We not only repent these statements,” the Bishop said, “but understand the true nature of our relationship to Jews and to people of other faiths.” He further acknowledged that his Church body has expressed views about Jews and Judaism “which we now know to be false.”

Commenting on these statements, Rabbi A. James Rudin, National Interreligious Affairs Director of the American Jewish Committee, said: “The expressions of regret on the part of Metropolitan Paisios and Bishop Vikentios represent a necessary first step in purging their group of the ugly pathology of religious anti-Semitism.

“What is needed now, after public repentance, is to translate the message of these statements into the daily spiritual life of the Old Calendarist Church and all its members. This is especially true in areas of preaching and teaching on the local level. Such statements issued by church leaders, welcome as they are, must always be followed by concrete actions and full implementation in all aspects of church life.”

Rabbi Rudin added: “The American Jewish Committee recalls with deep appreciation the powerful words spoken last October at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, by the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, when he repudiated anti-Semitism and called the Holocaust an ‘icon of evil.’”

An AJC Leadership Delegation met with the Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul last February.

Rabbi Rudin concluded: “The AJC also appreciates the vital efforts of Archbishop Spyridon, the Primate and spiritual leader of the Greek Orthodox Church of America, to build mutual respect and understanding between our two faith communities. For its part, the AJC looks forward to continued cooperation with the Greek Orthodox Church in the future.”

http://www.charitywire.com/charity11/00401.html 

The Sts. Anargyroi, Taxiarchis and Gerasimos Greek Orthodox  Church procession led by BishopVikentios of Apameia.
The Sts. Anargyroi, Taxiarchis and Gerasimos Greek Orthodox
Church procession led by BishopVikentios of Apameia.

Below is a brief, albeit incomplete, chronology of the “feats” of these two Metropolitans:

April 23, 1998: Archbishop Spyridon officially receives Metropolitan Paisios and Bishop Vikentios https://web.archive.org/web/20100613060136/http://goarch.org/news/goa.news617

May 4, 1998: One Calendar or Another, Greek Orthodox Heal Rift http://www.nytimes.com/1998/05/04/nyregion/one-calendar-or-another-greek-orthodox-heal-rift.html

October 11, 2010: Was Metropolitan Paisios’ Resignation from St. Irene Monastery Forced? http://elgreca262.blogspot.ca/2010/10/was-metropolitan-paisios-resignation.html

October 28, 2010: Metropolitan Paisios of Tyana Said to Be Under Investigation by FBI and Local Police http://www.jlaforums.com/viewtopic.php?t=57116189

Oct 30, 2010: Metropolitan Paisios of Tyana Said to Be Under Investigation http://nftu.net/metropolitan-paisios-of-tyana-said-to-be-under-investigation/

November 5, 2010: New York monastery scandal hits Greek Church http://byztex.blogspot.ca/2010/11/monastery-scandal-hits-greek.html

Nov 5, 2010: Metropolitans Paisos and Vikentios on Trial http://nftu.net/metropolitans-paisos-and-vikentios-on-trial/

November 7, 2010: Patriarchate Sends an Hexarchy to Chrysovalantou Monastery http://www.greeknewsonline.com/patriarchate-sends-an-hexarchy-to-chrysovalantou-monastery/

November 8, 2010: Astoria Nun Alleges Sexual Harassment, Hands Over $500,000 http://usa.greekreporter.com/2010/11/08/greek-nun-makes-sexual-harassment-allegations-hands-500000-to-the-police/

November 9, 2010: Met. Nikita Leads Investigation: Fox Guarding the Henhouse? http://www.monomakhos.com/met-nikita-leads-investigation-fox-guarding-the-henhouse/

December 2, 2010: Fanar accepts resignations of Paisios and Vikentios, appoints acting abbot http://www.greeknewsonline.com/fanar-accepts-resignations-of-paisios-and-vikentios-appoints-acting-abbot/

December 19, 2010: Bp. Vikentios accuses Bp. Paisios of perversion (Are they even real Bishops?) http://www.monomakhos.com/bp-vikentios-accuses-bp-paisios-of-perversion-are-they-even-real-bishops/

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December 21, 2010: Accusations fly after New York monastery scandal breaks http://byztex.blogspot.ca/2010/12/accusations-fly-after-new-york.html

January 1, 2011: Patriarch Bartholomew Gets Letter of Complaint on Paisios Conduct http://christianchildabuse.blogspot.ca/2011/01/law-firms-letter.html

January 5, 2011: Patriarch Bartholomew to Bishop Vikentios: Leave the U.S. Now http://www.monomakhos.com/patriarch-bartholomew-to-bishop-vikentios-leave-the-u-s-now/

January 13, 2011: Nun Charges Paisios Abused Her Daughter http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2011/01_02/2011_01_13_Kalmoukos_NunCharges.htm

January 30, 2011: Paisios, Vikentios Out, New Trustees in, Legal Battles Loom – Updated http://www.monomakhos.com/paisios-vikentios-out-new-trustees-in-legal-battles-loom-updated/

February 23, 2012: Paisios and Vikentios are Summoned to the Ecumenical Patriarchate – New Abbot Elected http://www.jlaforums.com/viewtopic.php?t=129769707

March 22, 2012: Met. Paisios’ Accuser Tells TNH His Story http://www.monomakhos.com/predators-in-our-midst-2/

March 29, 2012: Patriarchate Has Defrocked Paisios and Vikentios http://www.pokrov.org/patriarchate-has-defrocked-paisios-and-vikentios/

The Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate unanimously defrocked Metropolitan Paisios of Tyana and Bishop Vikenios of Apameia from the priesthood, relegating them to mere monastics.
The Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate unanimously defrocked Metropolitan Paisios of Tyana and Bishop Vikenios of Apameia from the priesthood, relegating them to mere monastics.