V45 #5 Crime on Mt. Olives

Reprinted from Orthodox Life - Vol. 45 - No. 5 - October 1995


On Friday, July 8/21, 1995, the feast of the Kazan Icon of the Theotokos, we were all shaken by the news that the mother of Father Joachim (Strogalis) was murdered. Father Joachim built the Greek church on the Mount of Olives.
Three years ago the upper church (of the Ascension) was destroyed by the order of the municipality of Jerusalem, while the lower chapel (in honor of Saint Pelagia) miraculously escaped destruction. Father Joachim and his mother lived in the Jerusalem Patriarchate in the Old City and came once a week, on Thursdays, to serve Liturgy in the Church of Saint Pelagia, which at that time was already built. On this particular Thursday evening the mother of Father Joachim, the handmaid of God Anastasia, went to light the lamps in the church. When she returned home she was at tacked at the very doors of her home by men in black masks. They sprayed her with a liquid which caused her to lose consciousness and then covered her mouth and nose with tape, causing her to suffocate to death. Having finished lighting the lamps, Father Joachim also returned home and there the same men at tacked him, using again the spray and the tape. However, he managed to cry out with his last strength and was heard by the servant of God Vladimir, a Russian iconographer living in a small wooden house near Father Joachim's home. Vladimir is a tall, imposing figure, and when he appeared, the attackers fled. Father Joachim was still alive, but suffering greatly they had beaten and wounded him with a knife. Vladimir and Father Joachim called the police and an ambulance, which took the remains of Anastasia, together with Father Joachim, to the Hadassah Hospital, a Jewish hospital in Am Karem, from which Father Joachim was soon released. All of this happened in the evening, no later than 9:00 p.m.; but in the southern latitudes it is already completely dark at that time.
Church Ruins (100KB)
Fr. Joachim amids the ruins of the Church of the Ascension on the Mount of Olives
The funeral service for Anastasia was celebrated on Monday, July 11/24, by Vladyka Iakovos, with many of the Greek clergy attending. In the hospital her corpse was placed in a body bag, and she was carried into the church while still in this bag. This made a grave impression on all those present. Father Joachim served Liturgy in the morning, participated in the funeral service, and even gave a homily, in which he often repeat ed the word "martyr." Her body was then laid in a cave and the cave was sealed. It will be opened after three years. Father Joachim was preparing this burial place for himself, but of course he gave it up for his mother.
The police are investigating, but will the murderers be found? Nevertheless, one should keep in mind that exactly three years ago the Church of the Ascension was destroyed, and this undoubtedly is not just a coincidence.
In the accompanying photograph Father Joachim is shown among the ruins of the church. The icon of Christ the Pantocrator is on the right. This icon, after having been thrown out of the church, returned in a miraculous fashion before the very eyes of those who were destroying the church, thus frightening them and preventing the destruction of the Church of Saint Pelagia. At first they frequently served Liturgy in these ruins.
We must hope that the Lord will give Father Joachim the strength and ability to complete the holy task of building this church, already sanctified by the martyrdom of the handmaid of God Anastasia.

Translated from "Pravoslavnaya Rus"', No.15, 1995

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