Source: The Age
Melbourne, Australia, February 5, 2016
Inside the Byzantine walls of Red Hill's Greek Orthodox Church is a framed image of the Virgin Mary. She wears a white cloak with gold lace and holds Jesus to her right cheek.
Parishioners of the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Panagia Kamariani (Constantinople) traditionally put gold jewellery or coins inside the glass case surrounding the image as gifts to the Virgin.
About 18 months ago, the glass covering the image was shattered, and about $300,000 worth of gold chains, watches, coins and rings donated over almost 30 years were stolen. The icon was left behind.
The Virgin Mary icon has been returned, but a lot of valuable jewellery is still missing. Photo: Eddie Jim
On Sunday night, thieves entered the church again. But when they could not smash the reinforced glass case to get the jewellery, they took the whole case.
While it is unclear what the jewellery was worth, the icon holds great religious significance.
"In our religion, what we do is we make a promise to the saint, or Our Lady in our case, and if the problem or the issue comes good, then we give her a present in thank you," church secretary Georgie Marinis told The Age after the 2014 theft.
"We've now seen people who have come and looked through the gold that has remained and I've seen the jubilation in them when they do see the piece they have donated has not been stolen.
"As people find out it's becoming even more and more distressing for everybody."
Two hooded men entered the Arthurs Seat Road church about 3.50am on Sunday and were captured on CCTV footage.
The first man can be seen hammering at the glass case before lifting it from a cabinet and leaving the church. The other offender picks up a bag left behind by the first man and flees, the whole theft taking less than 30 seconds.
The previous theft was even stealthier. The Reverend Father Eleftherios Tatsis was farewelling visitors at the church's front gate on a Wednesday afternoon when thieves were suspected of entering through a side door, according to the Mornington Peninsula News.
"They must have got spooked when the Reverend Father came back in because there was a trail of gold and jewellery leading to the door," Ms Marinis said.
Police said on Friday morning that the icon had been found the previous day on the side of White Hill Road, only a few hundred metres from the church.
Some of the smaller pieces of jewellery were also found, but the majority remains missing.
Anyone with information is urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential report at crimestoppers.vic.com.au.