(RNS) – St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine was dedicated Monday (July 4) in New York City. The original church, founded in 1916 near Cedar Street in lower Manhattan, was destroyed in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.
“Rebuilding St. Nicholas as a sanctuary for the nation is also an act of restoration,” Archbishop Elpidophoros, head of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, said in an encyclical released Sunday.
The restoration had been stalled for many years, due to ongoing funding issues. Since 2019, the reconstruction project has been funded and overseen by the Friends of St. Nicholas, a nonprofit group that includes the Reverend Alexander Karloutsos, the former vicar general of the Greek Archdiocese who will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. later this week.
The Independence Day consecration service was presided over by Archbishop Elpidophoros and involved ritual processions around the church building, the placement and sealing of holy relics in the altar, and the washing and anointing of the altar table itself.
Above the altar, an icon of Mary, called Theotokos by Orthodox Christians, is depicted overlooking New York City.
Seating has been offered inside and outside the church to accommodate guests, including Greece’s ambassador to the United States, according to a National Herald report.
The new church was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, who also designed the nearby World Trade Center Transportation Hub, often referred to as the Oculus. Calatrava’s designs for the church are based on notable structures from the Byzantine era, including the Hagia Sophia, now a mosque in Istanbul, and the Chora Monastery Church, also in Turkey. .
St. Nicholas, which plans to hold a full cycle of Orthodox Christian services, will also feature dedicated interfaith and non-sectarian spaces.
The aim, according to an official statement from the Archbishop on Sunday, is “to rebuild both the original Greek Orthodox Church, but also as a space where a diversity of beliefs and respect for other religious traditions can be celebrated. , taught and consecrated for everyone.”
The dedication of St. Nicholas Church and Shrine coincides with the start of the 46th Biennial Clergy-Laity Conference, a week-long New York gathering of Greek Orthodox Christians from across the country, as well as the centennial celebration of the archdiocese.