A historic church destroyed more than 15 years ago during the 9/11 terror attacks is being reconstructed, and a monumental event was held this week to mark the important undertaking.
Clergy and local officials presided over a ceremony on Monday during which a large, temporary cross was placed atop the frame of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine, restoring the overtly Christian symbol to the hallowed land at Ground Zero — land on which thousands of American lives were tragically lost.
According to a Journey Through NYC Religions, the original St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church building was destroyed after the collapse of the south World Trade Center tower; it was a historic church that dated back to 1916, as it was the first place many Greek immigrants came after they left Ellis Island.
The new building is slated for completion in early 2018. Watch a 360 video of the site below:
The “topping off” ceremony was an important milestone in re-stablishing the presence of the only church that was destroyed during the horrific terror attacks. It’s a move that Jerry Dimitriou, executive director of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, hopes will offer peace to those visiting the site.
“Many people walk around the World Trade Center and wonder about the structure being built and many don’t know how it was the only religious site destroyed on 9/11,” he said, according to the New York Post. “So we thought a temporary cross would be appropriate to show people we were rebuilding.”
Dimitriou continued, “It’s a symbol of hope; its a symbol of resurrection — that we are rebuilding, and we hope that the when the church opens, it will be that same symbol of hope and reconciliation and understanding.”
During a ceremony on Monday, Archbishop Demetrios of America blessed the temporary cross — a 6-foot 3-inch cross that will eventually be replaced with a permanent one — using holy water and water from the nearby National September 11 Memorial & Museum pools, as the Post reported.
The New York Times this week called the placement of the cross a “milestone,” with President Barack Obama recently praising the overarching effort to rebuild the church.
“If anyone seeks an example of our shared spirit, our resilience, they need look no further than New York City, near Ground Zero, where the Greek Orthodox church of St. Nicholas, once in ruins, is now rising again,” Obama said during a Nov. 16 address in Athens, Greece.
The cost of the construction project will be around $40 million, though $38 million of that has already been pledged. The completed building will be used for worship, but will also have a contemplative location for people of all faiths and denominations to visit if they so choose, the Times reported.
“This church will not be just a national shrine, but also an international shrine. It will show the will of all people to rebuild and resurrect from the ashes of 9/11,” Demetrios has said of the project. “This will be a church for all to light a candle for the beloved that were lost on September 11th. This church will be a Greek Orthodox National Shrine on Hallowed, Sacred Ground.”
(H/T: NY Post)
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