Sifton, MB, Canada, Sept. 11, 2010 - [OCA]
The church, built some 100 years ago in the "Lemko" style common to what is today southeastern Poland, had been restored completely several years ago and had been declared a heritage site.
According to local residents, flames were first spotted at about 11:00 p.m. Wednesday night. Firefighters were unable to extinguish the rapidly spreading fire. By 1:00 a.m. Thursday, only the smouldering basement remained.
It is unknown what or who started the fire, although the recent increase in vandalism and thefts in the area has led some locals to suspect arson. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have initiated an investigation.
There was no insurance on the building due to a lack of funds. A number of historic artifacts, including books, were destroyed.
"The Sifton church had been restored and renovated recently, with some financial assistance from the Archdiocese and elsewhere," said His Eminence, Archbishop Seraphim of Ottawa and Canada. "It had become a stopping-point in northern Manitoba, and it had established a registered Quiet Garden. The loss has many aspects beyond historical, emotional and sentimental ones. I hope we learn a lesson."
At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, Sifton was an important center of religious activity for the Orthodox mission in Canada. Located near the church was Holy Ascension Monastery, Orphanage, and Pastoral School, established in part due through the efforts of Archbishop Arseny [Chahovtsov]. The monastery and parish served many pioneering immigrants from Ukraine and elsewhere for several decades. The monastery existed into the 1960s, when the depopulation of rural areas began to significantly affect the Sifton region.