By Fotis Kaliampakos
After 22 years, the Holy Liturgy resounded again in the Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Nicholas, for the first time on the day of its celebration at “Ground Zero” in Manhattan. One of the oldest Greek Orthodox churches in the United States, it was destroyed by fire and the fall of the ruins of the Twin Towers on the 11th.th of September 2001. Through the efforts and sacrifices of the entire Greek American community, the church was restored not only as a church for the Greek American community and visitors to Greece, but also as a as a national monument in memory of the United States. victims of these tragic events, as well as for all humanity.
It is also for this reason that the architect Santiago Calatrava was chosen to create a monument which very well preserves the spirit of the Orthodox tradition while appealing to all. Pentelic marble, the same as that of the Acropolis, shines among the buildings steeped in history. This area of the city is steeped in the history of the American War of Independence, while inside the church, the monks of Mount Athos have created an iconography that remains traditional but incorporates our times and New York. In addition to telling stories from the lives of Saint Nicholas and Jesus on the dome, surrounded by light, at the east end, the Virgin Mary embraces and protects New York, as shown in the realistic yet very orthodox depiction . To the left of the entrance, His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who celebrated the Liturgy of Opening Doors on November 2, 2021, is depicted in rare Orthodox iconography wearing his glasses. On this occasion, part of the holy relics of Saint Nicholas traveled to New York, as well as some remains, including a half-burned evangelization of the old church. His Holiness Archbishop Elpidoforos of America held another service, this time on July 4th.th, on American Independence Day, now that this Church is inseparable from the fate of the American nation. His Excellency the former Archbishop of America Dimitrios was present at the historic evening of Vespers on December 5th. He served as archbishop in 2001 and led efforts to restore St. Nicholas Church. The church will now resume regular services and it will be open to all for visiting every day from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The sacred service was celebrated by the Bishop of Medeia Apostolos, who was very moved, not only by the historical importance but also by the memory of the tragic events. “Today is a day of resurrection,” said Bishop Apostolos in his speech, referring, with tears in his eyes, to the victims of September 11.
One of the leaders of the efforts to recreate St. Nicholas, President of the Friends of St. Nicholas Foundation Michael Psaros, shared with the Hellenic News of America his joy over this historic event and called the new church of “Hagia Sophia” of the Greek diaspora, supposed to last as that of Constantinople did for hundreds of years, and to serve, full of symbolism, the Greek-American community as well as all peoples. He emphatically declared: “This is America, and no one can disturb the peace and freedom of the Church.” In this way, he directly and harshly criticized the Turkish policy of transforming Hagia Sophia into a mosque, a direct attack on the values of civilized humanity, the principles of UNESCO on world cultural heritage and the ideas of the founder of the Turkish state itself. Ms. Psaros also used the comparison with the Parthenon, with not only the Pentelic marble but also other symbolic links with St. Nicholas at Ground Zero with a quintessential modern metropolis and the iconic monument of the Acropolis, the very birthplace of civilization.
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Their joy and optimism that the Church is a vehicle for the Greek-American community to reach all of humanity was also expressed to the Hellenic News of America, by Demetri Papacostas, director of the “St. Saint Nicholas and the National Shrine”, as well as Judge Theodore Bozonelis, Archon Ekdikos and National Vice-Commander of the Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle, Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
During the reception following the mass on December 6th In the nearby Skinos restaurant, with the church and the new Freedom Tower visible behind him, Mr. Richard Brown, whose construction company took over at a critical time for the project and completed construction, was invited by Mr. Psaros to say a few words. Mr. Brown, in a deeply moving speech, said that after 30 years in construction and real estate, this will be the work that will make him most proud, especially of his children and father, who unfortunately have not was able to see the completed work. As a Greek American, Brown continued, who grew up working in this area and was fortunate to survive that day, working at St. Nicholas was not only an honor but also healing. , as Mr. Brown concluded: “A part of me died that day. “. He was deeply moved that the path to healing and renewal could begin with this wonderful opening.