It’s been almost 19 years since the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church was destroyed alongside the rubble of the Twin Towers on 9/11, but now officials and clergy are celebrating the near-completion of a new house of worship where the old one stood.
Archbishop Elpidophoros of America hopes that the rebuilding of the new St. Nicholas National Shrine is is a significant moment in the history of the attacks.
“Ten days ago only, the greatest church ever built, not the very largest. but indeed the greatest by far… was taken away from the world in an act of domination and chauvinism,” Elpidophoros said. “Nearly 20 years ago, our St. Nicholas fell with thousands of our fellow human beings, lost in the ashes of 9/11 and numerous other wounded in body and soul by a savage act hatred and terror.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey officials dedicated the shrine on Monday morning with construction workers lining the rooftop of the church and its unfinished dome.
According to Cuomo, 9/11 may have toppled the old shrine but it was an opportunity for to “build back better.”
According to PANYNJ officials, construction on the shrine will be completed in time for Sept. 11, 2021 — the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
The archbishop remembered the horrors of the terrorist attacks that killed 3,000 people while also comparing the rise of the new St. Nicholas shrine to the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, the former Byzantine basilica that will soon be converted into a mosque once again.
The Hagia Sophia became a mosque after the city was conquered by the Ottoman Turks, but in 1934, after Turkey’s government had secularized, it became a museum. The United Nations and others have spoken out against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to put the 1,500 structure back into service as a mosque, citing its status as a meeting place of cultures.