The Rebuilding of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church
"Upon this Rock I will Rebuild my Church"
Photo courtesy of Herman Krieger
On September 11, 2001 the barbaric attack not only destroyed the majestic Twin Towers but also the tiny yet historic St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, located south of the second tower of the World Trade Center. In the aftermath of its destruction, very little survived: two icons, one of St. Dionysios of Zakynthos and the other of the Zoodochos Pege, along with a few liturgical items, a book, and some candles.
Within days, the Archbishop traveled personally to Ground Zero, setting foot on the site where the Church of St. Nicholas stood, in order to conduct a memorial service for the victims of those who perished in the attacks and to offer prayers for the families in mourning.
On the Feast Day of St. Nicholas, December 6, the Archbishop, joined by His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos and area clergy, celebrated a somber Vespers and memorial service near where the Church once stood. Six months after the attacks, His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew also journeyed to this sacred site and presided at a memorial service with family members of the victims.
Though small in stature, St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church was a place of ministry and worship both for her parishioners and also for local residents and workers in the Financial District of Manhattan who would pass by and often enter the Church. Following its collapse, the legacy of this tiny Church continues to dramatically impact peoples’ lives, and donations of almost $2 million have been received, as well as additional pledges of construction materials and appointments for the complete rebuilding of the Church. The city of Bari, Italy, where the relics of St. Nicholas were originally bestowed, has donated $250,000. The government of Greece has contributed $750,000 to these efforts, and the Ecumenical Patriarchate has given $50,000. The Governor of the State of New York, George Pataki, met with the Archbishop and pledged his support for including a new St. Nicholas in the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site.
The task of rebuilding the Church of St. Nicholas involves careful coordination, planning and vision. To this end, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios has appointed a committee to oversee the rebuilding project. In accomplishing their objectives, the committee has met with the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation so that the task of rebuilding St. Nicholas may be properly incorporated into the concept plans for the reconstruction of the World Trade Center site located at Ground Zero. These concept plans, which are the product of an inclusive process, envision the rebuilding of the historic Church of St. Nicholas as a functioning parish, ministering once again to the needs of her faithful. His Eminence, however, also sees the rebuilding of St. Nicholas as a matter of spiritual destiny, so that the millions of people who will visit the historic site of Ground Zero may find marking the place of a national tragedy, a sanctuary of solace and prayer, a concrete and visible testimony of renewed faith and hope.