$95M raised to rebuild NYC church destroyed on 9/11; will serve as 'Shrine of Remembrance'

Workers install a skylight at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine in New York City on Aug. 3, 2020.
Workers install a skylight at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine in New York City on Aug. 3, 2020. | Flickr/ governorandrewcuomo

A yearslong effort to rebuild the only church destroyed during the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in New York City has raised over $95 million.  

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine, originally founded in 1916, suffered heavy damage during the 9/11 attacks that killed 2,606 people at the World Trade Center and wounded over 6,000 others. 

The Friends of Saint Nicholas, a group founded in 2019 to help the church, announced last week that the project has raised $95 million, with over $55 million being raised since January 2020. Over $8.5 million has been raised in the last two months. 

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Dennis Mehiel and Michael Psaros, chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of The Friends of Saint Nicholas, told The Christian Post via email that the shrine's exterior is slated for completion by Sept. 11, marking the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

“There have been a series of significant donations that have occurred since Archbishop Elpidophoros assumed the leadership of the Greek Orthodox Church of America,” they explained. “The concerted efforts of The Friends of St. Nicholas, the nonprofit charged with raising the funding, managing the construction to completion, and to endow the Shrine, have led to these remarkable donations.”

Additionally, explained Mehiel and Psaros, the church's interior, including iconography, will require work well into next year. The plan is for the interior to be completed by Easter 2022.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople is expected to visit St. Nicholas in November. He will participate in the traditional opening-of-the-doors service for an Orthodox church building.

The official visit from the prominent Orthodox Church leader will correspond with the 30th anniversary of his enthronement as patriarch and the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

“We want every fellow citizen to know that the commitment of the Greek Orthodox Community of the United States is fully engaged,” the group leaders told CP.

“… we will ensure the rebuilding of the only house of worship destroyed on 9/11, the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, which will now serve as a National Shrine of Remembrance and Consolation.”

The effort to rebuild the Orthodox church has been an endeavor laden with complications over the past several years, including disputes over where the new church building would be located.

Financial issues were a significant hurdle for the endeavor, with the projected cost being millions of dollars more than initially estimated.

A series of managerial and financial crises within the archdiocese led to the church construction project being temporarily halted from 2017 until August 2019.

At a ceremony held to mark the return to construction, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo remarked that the church's rebuilding was “a powerful message to all New Yorkers and all Americans.”

“We are going to build back the way we built back from 9/11, and it will be better and stronger with more solidarity and more faith and more spirit of community than ever before,” Cuomo said at the time.

“We have gone through difficult times together, but we rise from the ashes and we rise stronger than ever before. That's what this St. Nicholas will stand for.”

In 2011, the Greek Orthodox Church sued the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, with the church claiming, among other things, that the Port Authority broke a 2008 promise to rebuild the building down the road from its old site.

Later that year, the two parties reached an agreement to rebuild the structure at 130 Liberty Street, including a nondenominational bereavement center.

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