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St. Mary’s Romanian Orthodox Church, located in northwest Alberta near the Romanian settlement of Boian, was burned to the ground this weekEpiscopia Ortodoxă Română a Canadei / Facebook

BOIAN, Alberta (LifeSiteNews) –– A historic 118-year-old Romanian Orthodox Church was reduced to a pile of rubble after being consumed by a fire earlier this week, in an incident that police have yet to confirm the cause.  

St. Mary’s Romanian Orthodox Church, located in northwest Alberta near the Romanian settlement of Boian, was consecrated in 1905. It was declared a provincial historic resource in 1976.  

On Tuesday, local firefighters from the Two Hills County fire department were called to the scene to put out the blaze around 6 p.m., and asked the local Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) for assistance.  

As of right now, RCMP are investigating how the fire was started, but are mum on whether the blaze will be labeled as suspicious.  

His Grace Bishop Ioan Casian, who serves as the Romanian Orthodox Bishop of Canada, posted photos of the fire on Facebook, and asked the community for prayers. 

“I learned a few minutes ago the sad news that the historic church of the Dormition of the Mother of God Parish in Boian (Willingdon), Alberta caught fire and burned completely in the evening of June 6, 2023,” he wrote.

“I will ask you to remember in prayer Rev. Fr. Mircea Panciuk, Rev. Fr. Gheorghe Petrovan and the community of Boian.” 

Casian noted that he will be “back with more news depending on what I will learn in the coming days.” 

“Until then, I invite you to pray for the community of Boian,” he pleaded. 

St. Mary’s was scheduled to have a 125th-anniversary celebration next month and for now, will be having church services outside. 

In a public statement, the Canadian Romanian Society of Alberta said that it is working for a way for “all of us to help and to rebuild the church in a timely fashion.”  

St. Mary’s former pastor Mircea Panciuk served as the priest for the church for 54 years. While he is retired and now living in Montreal, he was in the community on Tuesday when the fire happened.

“Yeah, very very shocked about what happened,” he said, adding that he has already “found a feeling of we will rebuild.” 

“We will continue what was left to us by these pioneers that came here.” 

Wanda Lutyck-Neufeld, who grew up near the church, and whose mother was married in it, lamented the fact it is now reduced to ashes. 

“Driving up today, when I got to the highway and I’m looking over it’s like you can’t tell this spot exists anymore,” she said as per CTV News Edmonton, adding, “You know what I mean, it’s like there’s nothing there. 

Lutyck-Neufeld said that when she saw “fire literally in the church,” to her “it almost defied belief like it’s burning internally, it’s devastating. I felt like it gutted me.” 

St. Mary’s is just one of many churches in Canada that has burned down in recent years, with many of the incidents being attributed to arson. 

Just recently, St. Bernard Catholic Church, a historic 122-year-old Catholic church in northern Alberta, sustained unrepairable heavy damage after being set ablaze in what police said was an act of arson. Two men were arrested and charged in connection to the fire. 

Since the spring of 2021, well over 100 churches, most of them Catholic, have either been burned or vandalized across Canada. The attacks on the churches came shortly after the unconfirmed discovery of “unmarked graves” at now-closed residential schools once run by the Church in parts of the country.

In January, another historic Canadian church, St. Joseph Lutheran Church, located in Hay Lakes, Alberta, was diminished to ashes in what police said was an intentional act of arson on New Year’s Eve. 

Last August, LifeSiteNews reported about the destruction by fire of one of the oldest standing Catholic churches in Alberta. Police said the fire was a “suspicious” incident. 

Despite the massive number of church fires in Canada, Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez made the brazen suggestion recently that the recent slew of anti-Christian church burnings in Canada could be remedied through further “online” internet regulation.