On the feast of Saint Nicholas, December 6, 2019, Archbishop Elpidophoros, head of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, visited the construction site of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church & National Shrine at the World Trade Center.
At the close of the service the Archbishop addressed the group of worshippers stating, “In 2021, on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we will open this church, but we will open it with prayer, we will open it with Thanksgiving, and with a welcome for all people.”
The bold statement comes after years of delays, budget overruns and financial mismanagement that led the construction company in charge of the project to stop working after multiple payments were missed by the Archdiocese.
The project is estimated to cost $80 million to complete. The Archbishop said that half of that amount– or $40 million– has already been raised.
Archbishop Elpidophoros’ Remarks after the Agiasmos Service
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in the Lord, Dear Friends,
A little over five years ago, this ground was hallowed by water, by prayer, and by the symbolic building of sacred cairns. As the Church in America, we were ready to show the world – after a decade long struggle – and finally commence the re-building of the Saint Nicholas Church, the only house of worship destroyed on 9/11. The construction began full of hope and expectation. We had the support of all the civil authorities. Over forty million dollars had been raised. At last we were on our way.
And then, two years ago to this very day – the day of the celebration of the life and legacy of the Wonderworker Saint Nicholas himself, construction abruptly stopped. Instead of completing the Church in 2018, as had been announced, we found our efforts stymied and frustrated.
But I do not say these things to discourage you. Indeed, we should all take heart that by the intercessions of Saint we are still here, with the waters of sanctification today, to re-commit ourselves to this crucial and decisive project which is a holy and divine ministry and service to humanity. We remain firm and unmoved about our obligation to this hallowed ground – ground sanctified by the death of thousands of our fellow citizens of all races, creeds, and ethnicities. Let us never forget that the rebuilding of Saint Nicholas National Shrine is the single most important public affirmation of our Orthodox Faith in our American Nation, since the late and ever-memorable Archbishop Iakovos marched in Selma with Martin Luther King!
I have complete and utter confidence that God is raising up His mighty hand to help us complete this divine work. We will move forward with all necessary openness and transparency and complete our mission here at the World Trade Center, to rebuild the Saint Nicholas Church and make of it a National Shrine. We will plant the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ here at Ground Zero, to be an anchor amidst this sea of sorrow, “to bind up the brokenhearted” (Luke 4:18), and to serve all who come to pay their respects to the heroes and victims of 9/11.
My friends, my brothers and sisters: we come here today to act with faith and with boldness to recommence the building of Saint Nicholas. We come here today to say in no uncertain terms that in 2021 – on the twentieth anniversary of 9/11 – we will open this Church with prayer, thanksgiving, and with a welcome for all people!
2021 is also an anniversary of another event of immense importance for the Greek Orthodox people of the world – the two hundredth anniversary of the Greek Revolution. Much like the Heroes of 1821, we have had our setbacks. But against all odds and after four hundred years, the Hellenes rose up to claim their independence and their place among the emerging nations of Europe. The fight was long and arduous, with many and much sacrificed in the cause of freedom, but the victory was finally had.
We too shall be victorious here at the World Trade Center, and Νικόλαος – “the Victory of the People” – shall stand as a testimony that Faith overcomes doubt, Hope overturns despair, and Love conquers all!
So be it. Γένοιτο! Ἀμήν!