Worshippers guard weeping Virgin Mary icon as leaders seek to authenticate 'miracle'

CHICAGO, Illinois -- It was an alleged act of divinity that went viral after a church caretaker claims she noticed a Virgin Mary icon weeping days before the church was set to face bankruptcy court.

Although a judge approved the sale of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, some of the faithful who gathered there are vowing to protect the icon from being taken away.

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The faithful at Holy Trinity said their weeping Virgin Mary is a sign.

"I was inside the church and saw the icon cry," said Demetrius Harisis, who has been a member of Holy Trinity since 1967.

Holy Trinity is the second oldest Greek Orthodox Church in the country and the oldest in the Midwest.

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With the fate of their congregation up in the air, a group of parishioners spent the night guarding the Virgin Mary icon, saying they will fight to keep it right where it is. However, the leaders of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago have other plans, announcing that they plan to remove the icon from the sanctuary in an effort to authenticate the "miracle."

"We understand their position," said Holy Trinity board member Dino Bezanes. "They wanted to authenticate the miracle and we don't have a problem with that, but we refuse to let them remove it from the church. There are other ways to authenticate the icon."

Some said the miracle is a sign from God and now serves as a source of hope as parishioners struggling to save their church.

"I grew up here and it's very sad what's happening. It's a shame," said Holy Trinity parishioner Mina Koronakos.

The church said a custodian first noticed the icon with tears streaming down her face on Sunday.

The discovery comes as a judge approves the $2.5 million sale of a bankrupt Holy Trinity to another church.

RELATED: Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church sold for $2.5M amid weeping Virgin Mary icon

"I know it's not easy but I hope the community will come up with the money. It's sad," said parishioner Eva Karas.

Church leaders released a statement regarding the weeping Virgin Mary icon that reads in part:

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"The Metropolis of Chicago asks the faithful to remain vigilant and also reminds them that while it is indeed possible to experience the divine through temporal objects, our faith rests not on 'signs,' but on Christ crucified."

As a steady stream of the curious and the faithful continue to flock to the unexplained phenomenon, parishioners said they haven't given up hope and are still fighting to keep their icon and their church.
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