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Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church officially reopens to public after being destroyed on 9/11

Church destroyed on 9/11 reopens 21 years later
Church destroyed on 9/11 reopens 21 years later 02:24

NEW YORK -- Twenty one years ago, Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine was destroyed when the South Tower collapsed.

On Tuesday, it was reopened to the public after years of financial setbacks and construction delays.

Parishioners attended mass inside the new church on the same day the Greek calendar celebrates the Feast Day of Saint Nicholas.

As CBS2's Marcia Kramer reported, it was a resurrection more than two decades in the making.

FLASHBACK9/11 20 years later: A look inside Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church as it rebuilds from rubble

Pomp, pageantry and prayers finally filled the church in an emotional opening that was a long time in the making.

"It means so much. It's such a source of pride and joy for the Greek Orthodox being able to once again have this jewel box built here on ground zero in the middle of the World Trade Center," presiding priest Father Andreas Vithoulkas said.

The original church, a neighborhood parish built in 1916, was completely buried by the collapse of the South Tower, and its loss was keenly felt by the Greek Orthodox community. Many were dismayed by the the many delays caused by financial problems, and the pandemic.

"We waited 21 years to open Saint Nicholas Church, so it's a big day for us. It's very emotional to me. My legacy started 100 years ago when my grandparents came from Greece and settled here in Lower Manhattan and got together with other Greeks and opened up the original Saint Nicholas," one woman said.

The new church sits atop Liberty Park and overlooks the memorial pools. It was designed by architect Santiago Calatrava, who also designed the Oculus transportation hub.

Calatrava took inspiration from the great churches in Constantinople. The shallow dome has 40 ribs like the dome of the Hagia Sofia in Turkey. It also serves as a shrine and memorial to those who perished on 9/11.

"It's important for all New Yorkers, not just the parishioners, but all New Yorkers that this is a cenotaph, a living cenotaph in memory of the 3,000 people who were martyred and murdered that day," said Michael Psaros, chairman of the group Friends of Saint Nicholas.

And while it was consecrated as a Greek Orthodox church, Saint Nicholas is also an ecumenical national shrine, open to all faiths.

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