Archbishop Elpidophoros of America and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo joined the Friends of St. Nicholas and NY/NJ Port Authority in Lower Manhattan on Monday as construction resumed at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine.
The original St. Nicholas Church and its iconography were completely destroyed in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. But after almost two decades and a two-year construction stall, the church is on the road to renewal — and with new iconography from a monastery on Mt. Athos.
“Nearly 20 years ago, our Saint Nicholas fell with thousands of our fellow human beings lost in the ashes of 9/11, and countless others wounded in body, heart and soul by a savage act of hatred and terror,” Archbishop Elpidophoros said at the site. “We cannot, we must not and we shall not let this stand. We are going to open the Saint Nicholas Church and National Shrine as a sign of love, not hate; a sign of reconciliation, not of prejudice; and a sign of the ideals that exist in this great American Nation, where one’s religious liberty and freedom of conscience never excludes, but only embraces.”
The Archbishop blessed the construction workers while Governor Cuomo offered his own remarks on the long-waited project.
“In the face of tragedy and destruction on 9/11, the St. Nicholas community literally held its ground against what was an inconceivable tragedy inspired by hate, instead relying on the power of love to restore what was lost and create a symbolism of faith and tolerance,” Cuomo said. “In New York, we know from experience that rebuilding after a crisis means more than just restoring bricks and mortar or reviving an economy; it also requires healing a broken spirit.”
The election of Archbishop Elpidophoros in May 2019 reset the stage for a new approach to complete the St. Nicholas reconstruction, which halted in December 2017 due to a series of managerial and financial crises within the Archdiocese.
With Cuomo’s encouragement, the Greek Orthodox Christian non-profit organization Friends of St. Nicholas formed to oversee the project. Under the guidance of the Archbishop and Fr. Alexander Karloutsos and the leadership of Dennis Mehiel, Michael Psaros and John Catsimatidis, the group raised the funds required finish the project.
At the conclusion of the event, Archbishop Elpidophoros, Cuomo and attendees observed the placement of the first skylight in the dome of the church.
“We have just witnessed the placement of the first piece of glass that what will eventually become a beacon of light at Ground Zero, shining brightly as a symbol of good versus evil and providing a peaceful and prayerful place for people of all faiths who visit the 9/11 Memorial,” said Mehiel, who serves as chairman of the Friends of St. Nicholas organization.
St. Nicholas Church is slated to be completed by the 20th anniversary of 9/11 on September 11, 2021.
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