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Church

St. Nicholas Church and National Shrine Featured on 60 Minutes

April 15, 2020

BOSTON – The Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine at the World Trade Center was featured on CBS’s 60 Minutes news magazine program on Sunday, April 12, coinciding with the Orthodox Church’s celebration of Palm Sunday.

The segment of the program which was dedicated to St. Nicholas was presented by Scott Pelley and began with the history of the parish which was established by early Greek immigrants and seamen arriving at the port of New York. They worshipped there because St. Nicholas is the patron saint of the sailors.

The program included video of the liturgical and worship life of the parish before the catastrophe of terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 which destroyed the church that opened in 1922, including scenes from the procession of the Holy Epitaphios of Christ on Great Friday evening and the Blessings of the Waters on the Feast of Epiphany on January 6.

Among the individuals who were interviewed was the sexton of the old church, Bill Terizonis, who experienced the horror of the terrorist attack and the destruction of the nave. He ran to safety, surviving thanks to his quick response. Terizonis was present daily at the Church, and said that he and St. Nicholas had become friends.

Also moving was the testimony given by Regina Katapodis, daughter of Jimmy Maniatis, the then-president of the parish council of St. Nicholas and who refused to sell the nave and the property to Manhattan developers who were very eager to grab it, offering $15 million dollars. He also resisted the Archdiocese itself, which wanted to sell the church and its property during Archbishop Iakovos’ tenure.

Anthoula Katsimatides also spoke eloquently and emotionally about the loss of her brother John during the terrorist attack. His remains were never found for burial, so the family had to settle for a grave merely as a sign of reference and memory.

Former Archbishop Demetrios of America appeared twice on the program saying that the workers at the site of the terrorist attack asked him to offer a prayer because there were dead bodies all around them. His second appearance was related to the problems with the finances and the stoppage of construction of the new church in 2017. When Pelley said that $3.5 million dollars were transferred from restricted account for St. Nicholas to other accounts of the Archdiocese, Archbishop Demetrios admitted that it was done but said that when he found out that something like that had taken place he told those in charge of the finances that they should have never done that. It is reminded here that The National Herald had broken the story about that issue, which was one of many financial problems that led the Archdiocese into the dire condition of having to mortgage its headquarters buildings under Archbishop Demetrios.

Demetrios was the Archbishop of America for twenty years and Jerry Dimitriou was his Executive Director of Administration. Dimitriou, in a letter some two years ago sent to Archbishop Demetrios, made it more than clear that Demetrios knew and authorized everything Dimitriou was doing. Archbishop Demetrios told 60 Minutes that the $3.5 million dollars was returned to the St. Nicholas account.

Pelley noted that Archbishop Demetrios had resigned and that a new Archbishop has come to the Archdiocese without even mentioning the name of the new Archbishop Elpidophoros.

Pelley also said that the new nave will cost $85 million dollars and will be ready by September 11, 2021. Construction was stopped in December of 2017 because the Archdiocese failed to pay the construction company and was resumed recently through the efforts of Archbishop Elpidophoros and the newly formed organization The Friends of St. Nicholas, which is comprised of prominent and able Greek-American businessmen. The sum of $42 million dollars needed to complete St. Nicholas has been collected.

The late Fr. John Romas, the last priest of St. Nicholas, also appeared during the program presiding over some liturgical services.

60 Minutes also referred to the Monastery of Xenophontos of Mount Athos and Fr. Lukas the Hagiographer who was selected by former Archbishop Demetrios to create the holy icons at St. Nicholas. Architect Santiago Calatrava Pelley traveled to Xenophontos Monastery and celebrated Easter there in 2018.

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