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By Patrick Hatch for The Age
Members of the Greek Orthodox community are in shock after more than $100,000 worth of jewellery left as gifts to the Virgin Mary was stolen from a church on the Mornington Peninsula.
Police say burglars walked into Red Hill’s Holy Monastery of Panagia Kamariani about 3.20pm on Wednesday and smashed open a sealed glass box containing an icon of the Virgin Mary, gold rings, chains, bracelets, coins and crosses.
A police spokeswoman said the thieves then fled with some of the jewellery, which had been donated to the church since 1987.
Church secretary Georgie Marinis said the jewellery had been left as gifts to the Virgin Mary.
“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 issues comes good, then we give her a present in thank you,” she said.
“So that gold that was stolen is thank-yous from people.”
Ms Marinis said between 100 and 300 people attended the church every Sunday, with most of the congregation coming from other parts of Melbourne.
She said news of the theft had shocked the widespread community.
“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 their piece [has not been stolen],” she said.
“As people find out it’s becoming even more and more distressing for everybody.”
Police have asked that anyone with information about the burglary contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.