Archbishop Demetrios

The New York Times gets the ground zero shrine story, but misses St. Nicholas Church

The New York Times gets the ground zero shrine story, but misses St. Nicholas Church

First things first: I am thankful that The New York Times covered this highly symbolic rite at the St. Nicholas National Shrine at the World Trade Center.

I was at the site just over a week ago and asked some of the crew if they knew when a cross would be installed atop the emerging dome on the shrine. This project represents the end of years of struggle to replace St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church -- the only house of worship destroyed on 9/11.

This is a "local" issue for me, in a way, since I am an Orthodox believer and I walk past the site every morning on my way to The King's College, when I am teaching in New York City. Click here, here and here for my columns about the church, beginning just after the attack.

The Times piece gets many things right, but leaves some major holes about the church itself -- as in the people of St. Nicholas. From the very beginning, this is a news story about a New York landmark, as opposed to a house of worship. Here is some summary material near the top:

The topping out of the shrine with the cross was a milestone in the tortuous effort to rebuild St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, a little parish outpost at 155 Cedar Street in Lower Manhattan that was destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001, when the south trade center tower fell on it.
And it is more than that. The cross is the first overtly religious symbol to appear in the public realm at the World Trade Center, where officials have often contorted themselves to maintain a secular air. (What almost everyone knows as the “World Trade Center cross,” for instance, is officially referred to as the “intersecting steel beam.”)

I appreciate that the story gives a precise location for the original church, in terms of a street address. The key is that government agencies needed that tiny piece of land, so they took it. So what happened to the displaced church and its people?

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