His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros
Remarks on the Recommencement of the Rebuilding of Saint Nicholas Shrine
August 3, 2020
World Trade Center – New York, New York
Today, after a hiatus of more than two and one half years, and thanks to the truly extraordinary generosity of the Friends of Saint Nicholas and the dedication and devotion of a few noble families, we begin again the construction to complete, to finish, and to bestow the Saint Nicholas National Shrine at the World Trade Center. We have heard the Voice of the Lord, and we are rebuilding His Church!
We are here today to give thanks:
to Almighty God Whose Providence has seen us through to consummate the course of our journey;
to the Holy Wonderworker Nicholas and his constant intercession on our behalf;
to our Governor Andrew Cuomo and the People of New York, who have stood by our side through a long night to now witness the dawn;
to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, whose Executive Director Rick Cotton and our dear friend, WTC Construction Director, Steve Plate who is with us today, who never lost faith in us;
to Skanska Construction and all those around the world whose patience and efforts are finally coming to fruition;
to our Architect Santiago Calatrava, and his love for Hagia Sophia that will be eternally present in this National Shrine;
To the good and faithful parishioners and Trustees of the Saint Nicholas Parish who have prayed for this day to come;
And to the Friends of Saint Nicholas who have bridged the gap, kept the faith, and made all the difference.
A little over a year ago, I said: “It is our duty and our responsibility as Orthodox Christians – but also our obligation and commitment to God and His people – to complete and open the doors of the Saint Nicholas National Shrine.”
Today, we begin to fulfill that promise to God, to Saint Nicholas, to the Parish, to our Church, to the good people of the City of New York, to America, and to the world.
As construction recommences, I would offer just this final word before praying for the safety and good health of all those construction workers who are blessed to rebuild this monument of faith and love.
Ten days ago, the greatest Church ever built – not the very largest but indeed the greatest by far – was taken away from the world in an act of domination and chauvinism. Our Hagia Sophia, the Great Church of Christ, the Queen of all Churches, reduced to the status of a pawn.
Nearly twenty years ago, our Saint Nicholas fell with the thousands of our fellow human beings lost in the ashes of 9/11, and numberless more wounded in body, heart, and soul by a savage act of hatred and terror.
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.
Governor Cuomo, I would now ask for a few words before I offer a prayer for the safety of all our workers and the speedy completion of our sacred task.
Please bow your head in reverence for all those who perished that fateful day of September Eleventh,
in honor for the heroes who rushed in where even Angels fear to tread,
and in respect for the families who grieve still;
And let us pray:
Almighty and Ever-Merciful God, Who through Your Son Jesus Christ showed us the way of love, we ask You to bless us as we rebuild this Temple as an act of love, which is dedicated to Your precious Saint Nicholas.
Protect the workers who have returned to this holy place to rebuild in safety and peace.
Guide their hands aright, shield their eyes from harm, grant unto them and all who contribute to this Holy Work every blessing of body and soul.
And may we all know the same joy in our rebuilding that was known by the Children of Israel when they started to rebuild the Temple of Solomon.
As the Scripture says:
And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord … they sang together in praising and giving thanks unto the Lord; “for He is good, and His mercy endures for ever.” But many of those who had seen the first Temple, when the foundation of this Second Temple was laid before their eyes, they wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy: So that the people could not tell the difference between the shouts of joy and the weeping.[*]
Let us, O God, shout for joy and weep as we rebuild this Holy Place, which will welcome All People into a House of Prayer, this Saint Nicholas Church and National Shrine that we raise in Your glorious and all-magnified Name, of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, worshiped and glorified unto ages of ages. Amen!
[Then the archbishop blesses all with the Blessing Cross and anoints the construction workers with the Holy Water while the Apolytikion of Saint Nicholas is chanted.]
[*] Esdras II 3:10-13.