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Ground breaking for St Nicholas at Ground Zero

Τhe great goal of the Archdiocese and the whole of the US Greek Orthodox Community in the became reality, Saturday, with the ground breaking ceremony of the new chapel of St. Nicholas at "Ground Zero," moving relatives of the victims.

The event was symbolic, while also absolutely essential. Besides, it was the culmination of a tangible objective: The rebuilding of the chapel of St. Nicholas at Ground Zero! A dream of American Orthodoxy for years, which at some point seemed to be losing ground, has now began to be realized, as the ground was consecrated ground in a moving ceremony, with high-ranking guests.

"We will have a monumentof high cultural, artistic and architectural value. At the same time, however, we will have a place of worship and a symbol of the kingdom and the Truth of God," Archbishop Dimitrios told reporters, in order to emphasize that the new chapel will not just be an "Orthodox Parish" as it was established in 1916, but a place with wider significance, regardless of nationality or even religious doctrine.

In any event, the case of St. Nicholas has garnered great interest over time, going beyond the Greek Orthodox Community, because of its association with the tragic moments of September 11th. It was also one of the reasons that the event was featured by the vast majority of American media, which were on hand to cover the event.

"This is not a building fund for a church.", explained father Evagoras Constantinides, spokesman for the Archdiocese, when asked persistently by American journalists how the cost of building the church of St. Nicholas will be met.

"This is a cause that ties into people's hearts that people remember where they were at September 11th and I really do believe – along with His Emminence Archbishop Demetrios and the Leadearship of the Archdiocese -that we will be able to get the funds that we need to bult this magnificent shrine", he said. 

Calatrava presence at the event 

Certainly, one of the persons that everyone focused on was famous architect Santiago Calatrava, who is known among Greeks for the canopy placed at the Olympic Stadium, for the Olympic Games in Athens. Ten years later, Mr. Calatrava is undertaking the reconstruction of St. Nicholas, revealing in his speech that he was inspired by the Hagia Sophia cathedral in Costantinople.
Hagia Sophia inspired me since I consider it the 'Parthenon' of Orthodoxy,” said Mr. Calatrava, having, a little earlier, made a reference to the Parthenon as an architectural model, while not failing to remember his participation in planning 'Olympic dream' of Athens, as he put it, since on September 11 he was in the Greek capital.
"Indeed, the new church will have similar features to the Hagia Sophia. One of these is the forty windows in the dome,"
as Archbishop Demetrios explained later, showing the Calatrava plan , and stating that this is a church “in the standards of the 21st century."

Emotion for relatives

Relatives of Greek Orthodox victims of September 11 participated actively in the ceremonies, with Anthoula Katsimatidis coordinating the event.

"Although several years passed, I have always believed that Saint Nicholas will be rebuilt. However, today gives me relief. I know that my late brother always lit a candle in this Church, so it is important for me to open these gates again," said Ms Catsimatides.

But apart from her own family, there were others there who lost loved ones in the terrorist attacks. One of them was George Kousoulis, who was wearing a photo of his daughter, Danielle, who was tragically killed, fifteen days before she became thirty.

"It's heavy for me, but as time passes I feel better," Mr. Kousoulis told New Greek TV apparently moved, and thanked the organizers of the event.
Relatives of victims handed small containers with water from the fountain - monument of the South Tower, to be sanctified by the Archbishop during the ritual.

Words of appreciation from officials

As mentioned, the event was held in the presence of high ranking officials. Thus, despite the fact that the absence of the Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio (represented by Letitia James) and the Governor of the State, Andrew Cuomo (represented by the Governor of the Port Authority, Pat Bros) attended by the former governor, George Pataki, former mayor David Dinkins, former Sen. Paul Sarbanes, Senator Charles Schumer, MP Carolyn, State Senators Dean Skelos and Michael Yiannaris but also state congresspersons Nicole Malliotaki and Aravella Simota.

"It was the Greek city - states which taught us faith in freedom. And now it is the Orthodox Church, which is the "rock" of faith, which crowns what has been done here at Ground Zero, "said George Pataki and Senator Charles Schumer added that "this chapel is a token of the spirit of bravery shown by our city after the terrorist attacks. "

'Ready in 2016'

In accordance with the relevant economic data, the construction of the chapel will cost $ 38 million, and the new temple will have a capacity of 150 persons. As stressed, the financing of the reconstruction comes from various sources and funders, including small time donors and major financiers from around the world.

Everyone gave a promise of hope to be there again in 2016, when, according to schedule, the beacon of Orthodoxy will again shine at Point Zero.