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United States

American Media Coverage of the Historic Vespers at St. Nicholas WTC

NEW YORK – The major American news outlets watched with great interest as the historic Vespers at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine at the World Trade Center were held on December 5, marking the first time services were held, according to the regular schedule, more than 21 years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 destroyed the previous St. Nicholas Church.

“More than two decades after a tiny Greek Orthodox church in lower Manhattan was destroyed by the falling south tower of the World Trade Center, that church’s far grander replacement opened to the public this week in an elevated park overlooking the rebuilt trade center’s memorial plaza,” writes the Associated Press in the opening of its article on the historic event.

Michael Psaros, Chairman of the Friends of Saint Nicholas told AP: “Today is a joyous day for America and for New York… We invite all of America to please come visit, to come to the cenotaph that was created and built in memory of 3,000 people who were martyred and murdered on September 11.”

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine at the World Trade Center celebrated the feast day of its patron saint, beginning with the Hierarchical Vespers service on December 5. (Photo by Eleni Sakellis)

AP also mentioned that the reconstruction of the church had been in doubt for many years, recalling the legal dispute between the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the World Trade Center site, regarding where the new church would be built before they agreed on Liberty Park.

“A ceremonial groundbreaking was held in 2014, but construction came to a halt in 2017 when the archdiocese fell behind on payments,” AP reported, adding that “work resumed in 2020 with the goal of opening St. Nicholas in time for the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2021. That goal was not quite met, though the church was ceremonially lighted to mark the anniversary last year.”

“This is the resurrection of St. Nicholas Church,” Olga Pavlakos, the vice president of the Parish Council and a third-generation member of the St. Nicholas community, told AP.

Forbes magazine reported on the issue in an article with the headline: “Santiago Calatrava Celebrates the Reopening of the Only Religious Structure Destroyed on 9/11 at the World Trade Center.”

“Today, world-renowned architect and engineer, Santiago Calatrava, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, and Greek Orthodox Church officials celebrated the historic reopening of the new St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine,” Forbes reported, adding that “it was the only religious structure destroyed on 9/11. Spanish-born Santiago Calatrava was tasked with redesigning the building entirely, creating a space that directly addresses the traditional Greek Orthodox liturgy while honoring the Church’s connection to the greater World Trade Center Memorial site.”

Forbes also quoted the Spanish architect: “To see the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine finally open is emblematic of Lower Manhattan’s storied future and defining past. I hope to see this structure serve its purpose as a sanctuary for worship, but also as a place for reflection on what the city endured and how it is moving forward.”

The opening of the church was, of course, reported by important New York media, such as NBC 4 New York: “The church where Greek immigrants gathered a century ago was a converted tavern that was eventually dwarfed by the office buildings that grew around it.”

“The church is covered in marble from the same Pentelic vein in Greece where the Parthenon’s stones were quarried, and at night its dome, through the translucent marble panels, shines like a beacon,” AP reported.

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