In a set of strange circumstances, four Christian Orthodox churches were burned this past Sunday—the day Orthodox churches celebrate Easter. Authorities in Australia are investigating the causes of two church fires in the country. Both of the church buildings (one in Melbourne and the other in Sydney) served congregations for more than century. Manhattan’s Serbian Orthodox Cathedral, which was built in 1850, was also destroyed by a fire on Sunday.
Though the FDNY told The New York Post that the circumstances of the fire don’t immediately appear suspicious, church members are reportedly concerned the fires are part of coordinated arson attacks on Orthodox congregations. As The Post notes, tensions have arisen after some Orthodox leaders recently moved to block the canonization of a Croatian cardinal, who was also reportedly a Nazi supporter.
Dušan T. Bataković, the director of the Institute for Balkan Studies in Belgrade, told the paper,
Too many churches have burned to call it an accident. It is very strange that it happened, that the fires all took place on Easter, the greatest Christian Orthodox holiday. Some kind of terrorist action cannot be excluded.
In addition to the fires in Australia and New York, another historic Orthodox church was burned in Russia on the same day.