Saving St. Nicholas

FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2018, file photo, the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, center, is under construction at the World Trade Center in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

No one has been more disheartened than I have been by the unfortunate fate of the St. Nicholas Shrine at Ground Zero, which should have been finished two years ago at half the cost of what it will now take to complete it. Everyone who contributed to the delays and the ballooning costs – from the incompetent managers of the project at the Archdiocese to the slew of lawyers, accountants, contractors, suppliers, and designers – bear responsibility for the failure to complete the shrine on time and on budget.

But despite the mismanagement and waste, I believe it’s time for all Greek-Americans to get fully behind St. Nicholas Shrine and to do all we can to finish it. I have come to that conclusion for two reasons:

First, it will stand as the premier monument for our people in the United States because it is projected to attract some 10 million people every year, twice as many as any museum or house worship in the country including the most majestic cathedrals. It will tell Americans in brilliant visual images for generations to come who we Greeks are, where we came from, what we believe in, and what we have achieved in our new found land.

Second, I have examined the backgrounds and proposals of the new team of managers who have taken charge of the construction of St. Nicholas Shrine and I believe they have the competence, the experience, and the integrity to finish the job as fast and as economically as possible.

I feel so strongly that the St. Nicholas Shrine must be completed, and that it will be under its new managers, that I have decided for the first time to make a contribution myself, something I never did before because I didn’t feel confident that those in charge of finishing it had the experience to do the job, no matter how good their intentions.

My contribution of $10,000 is modest compared to what some others have given because writers don’t get paid like athletes or entrepreneurs. But I congratulate those who have made six and seven-figure donations and I urge them to dig deeper into their pockets again since the stock market has soared and it’s a new tax year. If those who contributed from $100,000 to $5 million would double their contributions, two thirds of the funds needed to finish St. Nicholas would be in hand. They might be encouraged to do so by a promise to have their names listed somewhere in the church.

I also think we should extend fundraising for St. Nicholas to individuals and foundations outside our community since the new church will be built on a platform 25 feet above street level at the end of an open space that will include a non-denominational center for rest and meditation and the church complex will be a shrine that will attract pilgrims of all beliefs from all over America and the world.

I don’t believe parishes should be pressured to fill the financial shortfall needed to finish St. Nicholas because many of them are face soaring costs and declining congregations. But I think the most prosperous parishes might put aside for St. Nicholas a portion of their profits from their Grecian festivals and all parishes could hold at least one event – a glendi, a dinner, an auction – for the shrine.

Most of all, I hope we will step up as individuals. We Greek Americans have the second highest per capita income of any ethnic group in America and most of us have the means to make an individual contribution to complete St. Nicholas, which is sure to become a monument to our standing in America.

I know that many hesitated making donations in the past because of the reports of mismanagement of the project, many of them published in this newspaper. But now everyone can contribute with confidence that the money will be well spent, as I have done.

It’s crucial for us to finish St. Nicholas. All major religious denominations have built a great edifice in New York City to testify to their impact on the United States. The Episcopalians have St. Bartholomew’s Church, the Baptists, Riverside Church, the Catholics, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and the Jews, Fifth Avenue Synagogue.

We Greeks have limited ourselves up to now to our modest Holy Trinity Cathedral, far removed from the city’s nerve center at 74th St. between Second and First Avenues.

Now a terrible national tragedy has offered us the opportunity to create a great shrine for our faith and a spiritual memorial to all those who perished on 9/11 that will attract more visitors every year than all of the city’s majestic cathedrals combined.

St. Nicholas Church at Ground Zero will allow us to leave a monumental mark on America and to do it in a way that is worthy of our faith and our history, fitting to the memory of those who died on 9/11, and a lasting honor to our parents and grandparents who brought us to these shores.

So let us all join together in small ways and large, as our circumstances allow, and finish St. Nicholas Shrine to honor our past, testify to our presence in the United States, and create an enduring source of pride for future generations of Greek Americans.



  1. Whats disturbing is how small + hardly noticeable, the holy Cross sits on top —
    this symbol is the enormity, the mark of a Christian ecclesia…

    Why would Archbishop approve of this?

    And will church bells be allowed in PC Manhattan?

  2. Lets hope the permanent cross which hasn’t been raised yet is bigger than the one displayed in Calatrava’s renderings.
    Thank you Mr. Gage for a very accurate analysis of this project.

  3. Yes Niko Seretis – I ditto you thanking the superlative journalist herein, Nicholas Gage!
    So pleased he wrote this for TNH…
    + yes I remember his film Eleni –

    If y’all recall, large steel Cross found at Ground Zero after disaster – it’s now at museum at the 9/11 Memorial …

    Well let’s pray that the St. Nicholas “soon to be rebuilt” Ecclesia/Shrine will have as big a Cross!

    Just think: Perhaps it’s spiritual destiny a little humble church would ultimately transfigure into something monumental?

  4. The GOA is not a major denomination in the USA but rather an institution in terminal decline. A church is not meant to be an emblem of the Greek American success story. Mr Gage’s understanding of the church as the Greek community, or as some call it the homogenia, is faulty and not consistent with the vision of the church established by Christ and His apostles. Mr Gage’s exclusive perspective of Church is what has lead and will continue to lead to the demise of the GOA. He is an incredible author with a faulty view of the Church.

  5. Niko, look at the statistics of baptisms and weddings produced by the GOA and you will understand my conclusion. Extrapolate those figures over the next 20 years and you will see many more parishes follow in the footsteps of St. Nicks in Chicago.

  6. It is NOT a shrine… IS a Greek Orthodox Church…..can anyone explain to me why shrine and NOT Greek Orthodox Church , which St Nicholas always was……is this an attempt to conceal the Greek “Orthodoxness” of this structure and of our wonderful FAITH, all for political expediency ? if so then it will NEVER be a true Greek Orthodox Church, as “St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox” was…..

    1. Faith in Faith…let me answer your question!…

      Of course, the identity and face of the Greek Orthodox Church.are based on political expediency! …

      What do you think Bart did in the Ukraine in complying with a Neo Nazi Oligark President,.now indicted for corruption.and intricately connected with the Burismo and Joe Biden corruption scandal!

      Bart was ordered to separate any connections between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox church..because U.S ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt told him that the Russian Orthodox Church was a threat to the government of Victor Porchenko..and to U.S plans to take over the countries of heavily Orthodox Eastern Europe countries!

      Of course . the supporter of the Shrine are hard core ..Glory to America and Israel Greek Masons.. who blatantly express the political objective of building a monolithic structure, not for being a symbol of the values and religious doctrines of the Original Church of Christ ..the Greek Orthodox Church but as stated by building Manager Michael Pharos… ..

      “The National Shrine will also be a symbol to the world of New York’s and America’s resilience, a living icon of American values and value system, and a declaration of America’s commitment to freedom..””

      Then we have Cage,.tell us that Catholics, Jews, Episcopalians have monolithic edifices which define them in America, and we need this be like them!

      A replica of St. Nicholas ..should define us!

  7. Can anyone point to one institution that the GOA is responsible for that is in any kind of good repair and functions at a level that could welcome $10m visitors a year? GOA is terminal as an American institution because Elpi and his “parea” want only a Greek only institution. American families need not apply.

    Nick Gage’s opinions are not anymore important or relevant that those of us in the trenches. Too bad he never exhibited the same literary passion and outrage about the crooks and corruption in the archdiocese as he did in his books about what the communists did to his family. Unfortunately, Karloutsos keeps him around and at all the good dinner tables as his celebrity author ornament, expecting him to affirm all of Karloutsos’s fund raising schemes. Enough Nick, you go away too.

    No answers, no accountability, no reform?


    Tell Bart that to his face in May.

  8. Y’all here don’t understand — the negative thinking your throwing out into the ethers only feeds the dark forces …
    the Prince of Darkness is feasting off this.
    Please don’t go there — go to Metanoia.

    This disrespectful narrative against beloved Vicar Gen. Alex Karloutsos is just shameful — when he’s given heart & soul to this noble quest —
    and why wouldn’t author Nick Gage, a visionary be on his team & lend support? I do!

    I tell you: It’s spiritual destiny;
    a little humble church once destroyed is soon to be transfigured into something monumental —
    St. Nicholas Ecclesia/Shrine will be completed & it’ll look magnificent.

    1. We understand all too well. Stop all your toxic Ephraimite Metania lingo. Tell the GOA to Metaniosi- Demetrios, Karloutsos, Andonios, Dimitriou, the Metros and the cheese ball archons and pizza parlor councils.

  9. Mr. Gage, you forgot Number 3:

    3. A full accounting of how the previous money was spent, where it went, and efforts to avoid “missing” monies again in the future.

    Only when that is done will parishes even think of giving a portion of their festival money or stewardship money to this project.

  10. Archdiocese could raise Big Bucks just get Patriarch Bartholomew on a world tour,
    charge $200 to dine with him everyplace while he sings that 1930 novelty song:
    “Constantinople (Not Istanbul)”
    His Act would be smash hit belting out:

    “Istanbul was Constantinople,
    Now it’s Istanbul,
    Not Constantinople,
    been a long time gone Constantinople,
    Now it’s Turkish delight – on a moon lit night.
    Even old New York was once New Amsterdam.
    Why they changed it, I can’t say.
    People just liked it better that way.
    So take me back to Constantinople,
    Now it’s Istanbul, Not Constantinople,

    Why did Constantinople get the works?
    That’s nobody’s business but the Turks!!”

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