The St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine in lower Manhattan held its first liturgy service on Tuesday, over two decades since its destruction when the World Trade Center's south tower collapsed.
The small Greek Orthodox church's return marked the Feast of St. Nicholas. It became possible 21 years after the Twin Tower attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
'Joyous Day for U.S., New York'
According to a report by KSAT.com, Michael Psaros, head of the Friends of St. Nicholas, called the liturgy service a 'joyous moment' for the country and the city of New York.
The news outlet said his group led fundraising efforts for the church's rebuilding.
"Today is a joyous day for America and for New York. We invite all of America to please come visit, to come to the cenotaph that was created and built in memory of 3,000 people who were martyred and murdered on Sept. 11," KSAT quoted Psaros saying.
Meanwhile, Olga Pavlakos, St. Nicholas' parish council vice president, hailed the church's return to liturgy service as "the resurrection of St. Nicholas Church."
Maria Yatrakis, a parishioner who attended the original church, said seeing the newly-rebuilt structure sent her to tears.
"To see it back up like this, to see it so close to the Statue of Liberty, which represents all the immigrants who helped make this church, is very moving to all of us," Yatrakis told reporters.
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How the Church Was Rebuilt
The newly-rebuilt church is atop an elevated parking lot with a vantage view of the WTC memorial plaza.
The news outlet said its architectural design and construction are grander than the original structure. With its completion, the World Trade Center complex is almost done.
But the church's rebuilding almost did not happen due to some circumstances.
KSAT disclosed that WTC's owner, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, took the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America to court to decide where the church would be rebuilt. The two parties eventually settled on Liberty Park, located south of the WTC site, as the new church's location.
The church broke ground in 2014, and construction continued until 2017 when work stopped due to the archdiocese's failure to pay workers.
During the pandemic, work on the church resumed, with the reopening set for Sept. 11, 2021. However, the workers failed to meet the deadline. The church was lit ceremonially last year to mark the Twin Tower attacks' 20th anniversary.
Details of the New Church
KSAT offered some details about the rebuilt church.
Santiago Calatrava, an architect born in Spain, designed the new church structure. Calatrava reportedly followed the design of centuries-old Byzantine structures such as Istanbul's Hagia Sophia.
Father Loukas, a monk from Xenophontos Monastery, created the iconography consisting of several panels inside the new church. One panel shows Christ greeting first responders at a Resurrection scene.
"This is the first icon you will ever see in the Orthodox tradition that includes contemporary scenes for the Resurrection. We've never done that before in any Orthodox church in the world," Rev. Alexander Karloutsos, former Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America's vicar general, told KSAT.
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