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Apr 20, 2014 11:43 PM by Sam Salzwedel

Church celebrates first Easter since fire

TUCSON - Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox church members celebrated their first Easter since their church burned.

On May 29, 2013, the main sanctuary of the church caught fire. It is still unusable, so they worship in a hall on the property.

Matthew Moutafis has been going to the church more than 40 years. He said the building is not what is important.

"The church is inside each one of us," Moutafis said. "It was a fire, and it was tragic. And we lost some history, but we're looking forward to creating new history."

Father Earl Cantos said the holiday is not all about eggs and bunnies.

"We greet each other today, ‘Christ is risen. Truly he is risen,'" Cantos said. "And that's the whole purpose."

Easter is the most important festival on the Eastern Orthodox calendar.

"Praise god, wherever we are, it doesn't matter. We're going to, as a community, celebrate Christ whatever facility we have," Cantos said. "It's hard without our old church. But no matter where we are, a hall or the street, it's beautiful."

Parishioners had another big reason to celebrate the holiday. They had been fasting since Ash Wednesday.

"When we fast, we basically become vegans," Cantos said. "So today, it's all about animals and animal products."

The church hosted a meal after their afternoon service.

"We can't wait to get to it," Moutafis said. "You know what Greek festivals are like, and you know what Greek food is like."

Jimmy Gekas was in charge of cooking. He had not even been allowed to use olive oil until Sunday.

"It is fun cooking Lenten in a sense," Gekas said. "Because you have to change out the items that you use."

But he was happy to get back to his cream, butter and feta.

The anniversary of the fire falls 40 days after Easter, which is the Ascension festival. Cantos believes that might be a sign of a good future.

The church plans to relocate to a property near River Road and Dodge Boulevard. It already purchased the property. It will likely sell the land on Fort Lowell Road.

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