In this week’s print edition, we presented a paid advertisement from a distinguished Greek-American, Mr. Nicholas Karakas, who now lives in Florida, in which he opposes the completion of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine at the World Trade Center. I would be the last person to challenge his right to disagree or to deprive him of the right to express his opinion. This is the essence of journalism and democracy.
Through constructive dialogue, often through disagreement – which is also a nursery for ideas – come better ideas and decisions for the benefit of the whole community.
Our advertiser began by launching a general critique of the Archdiocese and the way it handled the St. Nicholas project.
I will not say that much of what he claims is untrue. After all, we ourselves have offered sharp criticism on these issues several times.
Nor will I claim that there were no mistakes and omissions, and that there was no lack of transparency in the execution of this project.
I will only note the following: his critique is based on the actions that were taken and conditions which prevailed before the previous Archbishop left the Archdiocese.
It must also be noted that with the arrival of a new Archbishop, the donors opened their wallets again and offered millions of dollars in donations. And what that basically means is that their trust in the Archdiocese has been restored.
Otherwise they would not make the donations.
Responding on a more general level, if we adopt the opinion of our advertiser, the damage that would be done to the Greek-American community in terms of substance and prestige would be enormous.
Let me explain: the Greek-American community simply does not compare to the communities of the Hellenic Diaspora in the rest of the world, for example in Montreal, Constantinople, Melbourne, Alexandria, and Tirana, in terms of impressive institutions and majestic buildings. As much as this surprises and bothers us.
Whichever of our communities in the above cities you visit, you will feel uncomfortable if you begin to compare what you find there to the Community in New York.
You will also wonder why this is the case, and this question will become more troubling when you consider that the Greek-American community here is more numerous and economically robust. For example, the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ in Tirana is much more majestic than our humble Cathedral in Manhattan.
Something similar is the case with our schools and the Archdiocese’s home for the elderly.
And why shouldn't there be a Hellenic Cultural Center in Manhattan where expatriates gather to eat, watch a concert, attend a theatrical performance, hold meetings and conferences, borrow a book or a movie from the library, or hold a dance so that our children can get to know on another, and so on?
So there is a paradox between the freedom we enjoy in this hospitable country to exercise our faith and maintain our language, and our economic prosperity that would allow us to be an example for all communities to imitate and not the other way around.
Not out of selfishness, excessive pride, or childish ambition, but because institutions and infrastructure play an important role in perpetuating a Community like ours.
In conclusion, it would be a tragic failure for our Community if we did not assume our responsibilities, if we did not fulfill our duty to the Holy Church of St. Nicholas, especially since it was destroyed by the terrorists on September 11, 2001.
And it would also be a great failure if its re-establishment was not worthy of our Hellenic Diaspora and Orthodox faith – of course, all in a climate of unity and transparency.