September 2, 2010

The Other Religion at Ground Zero

A Greek Orthodox congregation has been waiting longer—and working harder—than Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf to restore the church that was destroyed on September 11, 2001.

Lisa Miller
September 02, 2010

Father Mark Arey won’t put it quite this way, but he doesn’t see why Muslims are getting all the attention for their religious building near Ground Zero. Especially when the church he represents, St. Nicholas Church, was actually at Ground Zero; was obliterated when the South Tower fell on September 11, 2001; and has never gotten the green light to proceed rebuilding—despite nine years of promises by the Port Authority that were reiterated last week by New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“I dare say this, if this were a Roman Catholic church or a Baptist church or even a synagogue, we would not have had this problem. I’m not sure we haven’t been a little bit bullied because we’re tiny,” says Arey, the ecumenical officer of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

There are about 2 million Eastern Orthodox in the United States, practicing in a branch of Christianity that split from the Roman Catholic church in 1054. St. Nicholas Church was built in 1916 on Cedar Street, across the street from where the World Trade Center eventually stood, by Greek immigrants who worked the shipyards at New York Harbor. St. Nicholas, as Arey points out, is the patron saint of sailors in the Eastern tradition, and “the Greeks have been sailing the wine-dark seas since the days of Homer.” By 2001, just about 70 people were worshiping there on Sundays.

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