This week, a much grander successor for the little Greek Orthodox church that was destroyed by the World Trade Center's crumbling south tower in lower Manhattan more than two decades ago was unveiled to the public in an elevated park that looks out over the memorial plaza of the rebuilt trade centre.
To commemorate the Feast of St. Nicholas, the brand-new St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine held its inaugural liturgy service on Tuesday. It is now getting ready to welcome pilgrims of all faiths who want to honour the victims of the terrorist acts of September 11, 2001.
"Today is a joyous day for America and for New York," said Michael Psaros, chair of Friends of St. Nicholas, the group tasked with raising funds for the church. "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 Sept. 11."
One of the final components of the recently constructed World Trade Center complex, the project's completion initially seemed in question.
After a legal dispute over the location of the new church, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the World Trade Center, settled on Liberty Park, which is located just south of the leading trade centre site.
After a formal groundbreaking ceremony in 2014, development was put on hold in 2017 due to the archdiocese's late payments.
To open St. Nicholas in time for the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2021, construction was resumed in 2020. Even though the church was ceremonially lit to commemorate the previous year's occasion, that objective was not met.
But on Tuesday, icons depicting heroes of Sept. 11, as well as Christ and the saints, watched over a service conducted primarily in New Testament Greek.
"This is the resurrection of St. Nicholas Church," said Olga Pavlakos, the vice president of the parish council and a third-generation member of the St. Nicholas community.