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St. Anne's Anglican Church burns in Toronto.X

(LifeSiteNews) — In December 2015, I attended a concert at St. Anne’s Anglican Church in Toronto. It featured a selection of Vivaldi’s sacred music titled “Beatus vir”—the first words in the Latin Vulgate Bible of both Psalm 1 and Psalm 112 — and it was the first time the selection had been performed outside of Europe. The orchestra and choir were breathtaking, especially in the historic church that featured stunning murals painted by members of the Group of Seven on the dome — the only religious art the renowned artists ever produced.

On Sunday, during the early morning hours, a four-alarm fire ripped through the historic church. Built in 1908, the Byzantine-style building burned almost to the ground in a matter of hours. Flames shooting through the roof confirmed what many suspected: Everything is gone. “There’s no indication that anything was saved at this point,” Toronto Fire Services spokesman Deepak Chagger told the press. The murals by Group of Seven artists (as well as other prominent Canadians) were described as “invaluable.”

“The artwork was priceless,” Father Don Beyers, rector of St. Anne’s, told the press. “It was murals, beautiful murals. They were stunning. This was the only church that featured artwork by the Group of Seven. And I’m sorry to say that’s been lost, from what I can see.” The murals on the dome and in the chancel were commissioned by the church in 1923 and included work by J.E.H. Macdonald, Franklin Carmichael, and Frederick Varley.

“This is an extraordinary loss,” Beyers said after the firefighters extinguished the blaze mid-Sunday morning. “Not only was the art important, but the church itself was important architecturally. It was one of the rare Anglican churches that was in the Byzantine style, an Eastern Christian style.” Councillor Alejandra Bravo, who represents the ward, noted that residents of the Little Portugal neighborhood where the church once stood were expressing enormous “grief” over a site “that we cannot replace in Canada and in the world.”

Authorities have not yet announced any theory as to how the blaze began, but the fire was already raging through the building by the time fire crews arrived on Sunday morning, and firefighters had to pull out of the building quickly due to risk of collapse. Father Beyers expressed bewilderment as to how the fire started. “Nobody was here, the church was locked, secure, all the lights were off,” he said. “It’s a real mystery to us how this even happened.” He is usually the first one to arrive at the church in the morning.

We do not yet know what started the conflagration that leveled St. Anne’s — a designated National Historic Site — but it is worth noting that over 100 churches have been vandalized or torched since 2021, when the press began to push the story of a “mass grave” near a residential school in Kamloops. Of those, 33 burned to the ground. Back in January, I noted that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had yet to dedicate a single speech to the unprecedented attacks on Canadian churches — but that when the number of churches attacked was at 68, Trudeau appointed a special representative to combat Islamophobia; when the count was at 83, the Liberal and NDP Members of Parliament at the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Committee voted to adjourn to avoid considering a motion put forward by a Conservative MP denouncing the destruction of churches.

Indeed, Trudeau has yet to comment on the destruction of the “Group of Seven” church burning down. He did, however, send out another tweet condemning Islamophobia yesterday nearly 12 hours after the fire at St. Anne’s was put out, noting that “Canadians have seen how dangerous and ugly Islamophobia is” and that “We have to keep confronting it — wherever and whenever we see it.” We do not yet know for certain that St. Anne’s was burned down like dozens of other churches over the past several years, but there is something hauntingly appropriate about Canada’s historic churches burning down at this point in her history.

I suspect St. Anne’s will not be the last — and our leaders seem perfectly content to fiddle while the cathedrals burn.

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Jonathon Van Maren is a public speaker, writer, and pro-life activist. His commentary has been translated into more than eight languages and published widely online as well as print newspapers such as the Jewish Independent, the National Post, the Hamilton Spectator and others. He has received an award for combating anti-Semitism in print from the Jewish organization B’nai Brith. His commentary has been featured on CTV Primetime, Global News, EWTN, and the CBC as well as dozens of radio stations and news outlets in Canada and the United States.

He speaks on a wide variety of cultural topics across North America at universities, high schools, churches, and other functions. Some of these topics include abortion, pornography, the Sexual Revolution, and euthanasia. Jonathon holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in history from Simon Fraser University, and is the communications director for the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform.

Jonathon’s first book, The Culture War, was released in 2016.

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