A Greek Orthodox Church in New York City reopened this week after it was destroyed during the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church held its first liturgy service on Tuesday for the first time in 21 years. During 9/11, the church was destroyed when the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed.
"Today is a joyous day for America and for New York," Michael Psaros, chair of Friends of St. Nicholas, said. "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 September 11."
The service also marked the Feast of St. Nicholas, an annual celebration recognizing the third-century patron saint who was known for his generosity to people and later inspired the holiday character Santa Claus.
While a groundbreaking ceremony was first held in 2014, construction stopped in 2017 because the archdiocese had fallen behind on payments. According to the Associated Press, the project later restarted in 2020 with the goal of opening in time for the 20th anniversary of 9/11. The building, however, was not completed in time, and a ceremonial lighting of the church was held instead.
Tuesday's service, which was held in New Testament Greek, included icons depicting Christ, the saints and heroes on September 11.
"This is the resurrection of St. Nicholas Church," Olga Pavlakos, who serves as vice president of the parish council and a third-generation member of the St. Nicholas community, said.
Maria Yatrakis, whose family attended the old St. Nicholas, said she had tears in her eyes when entering the new building for the service.
"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," she said.
The church, which was originally founded in 1916, is covered in marble from the same vein of Pentelic vein in Greece that was used to construct the Parthenon, an ancient temple in Athens.
Father Loukas, a monk from Xenophontos Monastery in Mount Athos, Greece, took part in painting the iconography inside the new temple. One panel depicts boats traveling to save people fleeing from the destruction on 9/11 as the Twin Towers burned. Another panel shows Christ greeting first responders, including firefighters and police officers, at the Resurrection.
The Rev. Alexander Karloutsos, the former vicar general of the archdiocese who played a key role in rebuilding St. Nicholas church, says that Father Loukas was asked to "show the reality of September 11" in addition to creating traditional icons.
"This is the first icon you will ever see in the Orthodox tradition that includes contemporary scenes for the Resurrection," Karloutsos said. "We've never done that before in any Orthodox church in the world."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Bloodua
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.