Open Letter to the Publisher of The National Herald

Dear Vanessa, Dear Readers and Guarantors –

Thank you for your reply to my request.

I choose not to respond to those who used my name in their recent article in TNH. In my original message, I tried to expose the celebrated architect Santiago Calatrava whose structures seem to continue come in as always over budget, past completion promises, and with a number of engineering design flaws. But you know this from the outside media press. My hope here was to have Orthodox artisans complete the Shrine project so that we faithful could have a profound Greek Orthodox influence in its realization.

Further, I know, like, and admire a number of people in the Guarantor group and would think it unseemly if, I retorted personally.

Now, allow me if you will, to take you on another decidedly different, perhaps controversial slant concerning the Shrine. Let’s take our hard driving immigrant business sensibilities to the top of our Shrine thinking.

I recognize that the shrine issue has been discussed ad infinitum, yet among Greek Orthodox it is even today a seething topic, knowing what has happened in the past.  The exorbitant costs, missing funds, perhaps stolen or misused. The pronouncements of our esteemed AB Elpidophoros and the fine people of Friends of St. Nicholas, leaders who declared the completion of the shrine to be on the same level as the start of the fight for Greek Independence, which has a really fine ‘patriotic’ ring.

But wait a moment, what are we trying to do? Greek Independence should be acclaimed on its own. The shrine should have its own notoriety, not enveloped in the Greek flag.

This is America! I am of Greek descent. I wear my Greekness with reverence and elation, sometimes with exuberance, other times in quietness.

As a father, I sorrow over my children who have strayed from the Orthodox reservation to Christian pastures elsewhere. So here we are attempting to build an edifice, a tribute to God, a church-type building which God neither wants or needs which, I declare is an abomination in the use of hard earned resources.

What are we trying to do? Out Pope the Catholics, build the Parthenon, have a society of faiths from Muslims to who-knows-what occupy niche spaces in ‘our’ shrine to propagate their own faiths? In one fell swoop, has Orthodoxy become the ‘Kumbaya’ to and of all religions?

I ask you dear Orthodox brethren, does this real time scenario sound like an endeavor God would approve, or that you would want as a church, or an investment?

Now would you, barring ego and ethnic pride, spend up to $80 perhaps $100 million to construct a building which would cost, $22,000 plus per square foot? Then taking into account, the added expenses of regular maintenance, payrolls, building upkeep, utilities, repairs, and future replacement costs for a structure and facility which can only hold 100 people at any given time and would surely have inherent faults you did not own? I said, we would not own!

Why at this time, would you want to be involved in what I believe to be a blunder which further exacerbates the turmoil in our beloved Greek Church when, we are already so vulnerable and exposed from the past 25 years of decay and backsliding?

The answer, I believe may be in these suggestions which I humbly offer:

Sell, yes sell our ‘land rights’ to the Shrine to those who would love the notoriety and the prestige of the location.  Purchasing candidates would include: the Lutheran, Catholic, and Presbyterian Churches, Baptists and other possible Christian denominations which might be interested. This effort of course has not been attempted or pursued. Shame.

Then we Greeks can use the money from the sale to perhaps purchase a nearby property and build a magnificent edifice to God, using Greek Orthodox architects and artisans, on land we would own. Ok, now I can hear the criticism. We have gone too far in this project; we are morally committed, and publicly obligated, how dare you bring this up in this way at this late time, etc.  My response would be:

The Shrine as situated is not in the same location nor the same configuration or does it even compare to the same size as before; the current location is only loaned to our church by the Port Authority, to be used by our church. It is not sacred ground as it certainly does not contain any relics of a saint. It’s just an offal chunk of ground allowed to us only to just placate and keep us Orthodox quiet.  Further, there is no parking for the many potential tourists and faithful who would come to pray and rest and lastly, the zooming traffic on the surrounding streets make it extremely hazardous for pedestrians. Perhaps the only exposure the Shrine will receive will be visitors as a result of its dependence on tour buses. Imagine, a beautiful sanctuary kept open and alive at the mercy of tour buses.  What a way to invest $80 plus million!

Vanessa and Readers, I pray you are still with me. This concerns our beloved faith. I am writing this, as you are reading this message, while the work and the heavy spending on the Shrine is continuing. I did not intend to load you up with this sort of notice. Our famous and esteemed author Nicholas Gage offered an eloquent passage on supporting the St. Calatrava Shrine. Too bad Mr. Gage’s talents were not used to bring some awakening to our Guarantors. To be honest, the haughty manner in which this Shrine matter has been handled from the beginning has not only polarized the Greek community but has created much worldwide attention and embarrassment.

Dear Guarantors –

Your success in life has earned the admiration and respect of your/our people. Do you realize that you represent a wholesome aspiration for many of us to emulate your achievements as you in all probability, started your careers at the entry level. So what is the guy selling fruit and produce on the sidewalk in front of a store he or she does not own, the peddler selling hot dogs or an always tired restaurant operator or a worker in a machine shop or office, all working to earn enough money to be able to put food on the table for their families and send their children to college?

What do these salt of the earth Orthodox people quietly think and privately say when you Guarantors are soliciting their money once again, to complete the soon to cost perhaps $100 million St. Calatrava Shrine?

Should the Shrine location Land Rights be sold, a portion of the monies could be used to establish/replenish the Clergy Pension fund, or be used as low cost loans to parishes for repairs, expansion, or new construction of churches, auditoriums, and the purchase of new ground.

Again, just think! Almost up to $100 million to be spent on a tiny piece of dirt that we do not own. And this at a time when our beloved church is on the cusp of bankruptcy and failure.

At what price glory, what price fame?

I appeal to those who still profess to know me, put your emotions, gallantry, and the Greek flag aside. This is America, the place where we have astutely and perseveringly worked hard and long hours to succeed. I personally know that retreat and reboot is painful, and runs counter to our Greek ethos. Yet I believe you know in your hearts and minds, there is a better way to preserve the sanctity and memory of the St. Nicholas Church destroyed on 9/11. Put on your business hard hats and do the right thing for our Faith, our kids and families.

This entire Shrine effort in retrospect is turning out to be a Trojan horse in reverse. The first time it was tried by our ancient forebears it was a success. This second time turned out in a manner we Greeks would have never imagined. It’s time to pull up the stakes dear Guarantors.  We can leave this Shrine building location with heads high, egos neatly in place and money in our pockets to buy and build a magnificent tribute to God, in a nearby adequate space, a building welcoming all, using Greek craftsmen and women for a lot less money, and have a building we would own, yes own, and with millions to spare.

May I leave you with this message from AB Averky of Syracuse and Holy Trinity Monastery:

“The destructive spirit of Apostasy has already penetrated even our Orthodox Church, extremely prominent hierarchs of which openly are proclaiming the approach of some sort of ‘new era’ and cynically are proposing being done with all the past as they assemble to create some kind of completely ‘new Church’ in close ‘ecumenical’ contact and unanimity with all apostates from the true faith and Church…For a long time we have heard that they (our Orthodox clergy) belong to this movement in order ‘to witness to the peoples of other confessions the truth of holy Orthodoxy,’  but it is difficult for us to believe that this statement is anything more than ‘throwing powder in our eyes.’  Their frequent theological declarations in the international press can lead us to no other conclusion than that they are traitors to the holy Truth.”

Yours in the Faith,

Nick Karakas

Karakasn@yahoo.com

 

10 Comments

  1. You make salient points Mr. Karakas, I believe many Orthodox are feeling your pain. Let’s hope a miracle happens, it IS way too much money spent.
    God help this project!

  2. Mr Karakas,
    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, for spending the time to have these thoughts, and write them out with such clarity. And for standing tall to voice them !!

    Your ideas reveal both solid wisdom (bravo sou) and deep love for our Church and our heritage. These are EXCELLENT thoughts!

    All the rest of us should make sure your thoughts are known widely in our parishes. I will spread your words. Your bold ideas are doable and provide excellent solutions to the problems we face. And I have to say it, someone like you, reinvigorates my pride in my heritage, all of it, the Hellenic, the Orthodox Christian, and the hardworking, resourceful immigrant UNLEASHED in America.

    If any of our leaders are worthy leaders, they will not ignore your thoughts. In the least, they must either propose their own viable solutions or defend their transparent strategy: to ignore us and hope we go away. Their current ‘whistling past the grave yard’, has not worked and will never work. Instead it will obliterate our Church into small fragments.

    Have a wonderful day sir, you did very fine work here!

    1. Mr. Karakas…I have supported your previous recommendations and genuine valid criticism of the EDIFICE ..which somehow .. those opposed to you …believe will define the Greek Orthodox Church domestically and Internationally ..like the CATHOLIC , BAPTIST, LUTHERAN etc Christian Denominations do , in portraying themselves as the leaders of the Christian faith… and more importantly to them ..promoting .the Culture and Values of Americas Evangelical Exceptionalism..which is now at the point of a gun!

      However.. surrendering the rights of the Original Church of Christ ..the Greek Orthodox Church to be located at the 9/11 ground zero site, where the most heinous acts against humanity occurred, and where monuments of Greed, wealth and power…reside not to serve humanity and the Christian values of our lord .. is a mistake!

      NO .. ST NICHOLAS GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH …THE ONLY LEGITIMATE CARETAKER OF CHRISTIANITY AND THE ORIGINAL CHURCH OF CHRIST ..WHO DOES NOT SERVE THE VALUES OF AMERICAS KINGDOM… BUT ONLY THE VALUES OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND IS PERFECTLY PLACED TO REMIND EVERYONE , WHAT WAS ONCE GOOD IN THE WORLD…SIMPLY GOING TO CHURCH AND WORSHIPING THE VALUES OF OUR CHURCHES, AND ACTUALLY PRACTICING THE VALUES OF CHRIST!

      MR. KARAKAS ..LET ALL STAND TOGETHER , AND SIMPLY DEMAND THAT A SIMPLE REPLICA OF ST. NICHOLAS BE BUILT ..WHICH WILL BY ITSELF COST FAR LESS THAN THE CURRENT EDIFICE..AND SIMPLY INVITE ANYONE TO WORSHIP, AND PARTAKE…

  3. Dear Mr. Karakas,

    Kali kai evlogemeni Sarakosti.

    The true orthodox church is in the heart – because the first place Christ resides is in the heart. The words you have written for this publication, as far as I can tell, are coming from the church in your own heart. Speaking from the heart is very rare in the Orthodox faith. Wow! It’s Refreshing!! Healthy!!! Glory to God in the highest!!!
    The opening comments by Antonis K. echo my own sentiments; thank you! thank you! thank you!!

    May the holy Spirit guide your steps!

  4. CONT..

    in the experiencing , what only the Original church of Christ can provide ..the Greek Orthodox Church..which is how to worship, pray, and serve our lord..as practiced thousands of years ago! Why do you think ..it is the Greek Orthodox Church Clergy ..who are the caretakers of the holiest cathedrals of Christianity the .. Church of the Nativity and Holy Seplucher” Why do you think .. the Greek Orthodox Clergy …can judge evil …like Baptist Evangelicals..like George Bush Jr. and Tony Blair…and proclaim them banned from ever entering the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem for the slaughter of 800,000 Iraqi men, women and children, based on proven lies and false premises? While the Baptist , you plan to turn over the property of the Greek Orthodox faithful.. built monuments like the edifices at the world trade center honoring his crimes against Gods children!

    Mr Karakas, I join you in your valid crusade..however, .retreating and hiding from evil ..is not what our lord would want..he would be right in the face of evil.and that resides in every way possible..right at the location of the planned Shrine!

    What will define us…and a poor carpenter called Christ.. an Edifice or his simple church which.reached by the way, and far earlier than the Catholic and Baptist Edifices,the hearts of millions of Christians, simply .. by listening to his gospels of values and truths! .

    Imagine, like the Agape service on Easter, in different languages!

    1. Yes Eleni you’re right to call on beloved Elder Ephraim – a true Saint!
      We the faithful need him & I believe he’s better able to help us now where he is Up in Paradise!

  5. I believe the people behind rebuilding St Nicholas mean well & trying their best to rebuild something beautiful… let’s pray All will be well.

    What’s worrisome is this global 9/11 type Virus that’s sweeping the planet & started from China – will people around the world feel like traveling at all to NY’s ground zero to even visit the Shrine and pay for icons candles etc like at St Patrick cathedral?? I am doubting this…

    1. Hey ..SAGE GIRL… the 9/11 Type Virus .. should be the least of your concerns..when compared to the 9/11 Global virus of the fake ‘War on Terrorism” virus which effects entire populations of the independent countries of the world ..and has already criminally killed millions in the Middle east by your Clory to America and Israeli degenerate Gangsters and now attempting to infect the entire world with this war virus ..by attempting to provoke Nuclear war by supporting Nato Ally ..in invading Syria and protecting the Terrorists…responsible for the 9/11 attrocities and killed 3000 citizens!

      It is no wonder ..that conspiracy theorist ..believe it was the C.I.A, and Saudi Arabian and Israeli intelligence who orchestrated the 9/11 attacks ..to provide degenerate Gangsters running America to launch their fake “War on Terrorism” which has only resulted in Regime change of the countries of the Middle East, not subserviant to these Terrorist countries and as is blatantly being exposed in Syria… with the number one ally of Turkey.,non other than Nato U.S, Nato Greece and the rest of the organized crime family of Oligarks and Aristocratic Mafia degenerates …you support Sage Girl

      Sage Girl, the latest revelation by conspiracy theorist ..is it coincidence ..that every Election year.. for the past 20 years.there has been an outbreak of some sort of biological virus .like the Swine flu.. or E-bolus which threatens Global extinction!

      U.S war virus..never ends!

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