`Tent' Church at Ground Zero

By VERENA DOBNIK
The Associated Press
Thursday, December 7, 2006; 10:50 AM

NEW YORK -- A church rose up for a day inside a white tent at ground zero.

Hundreds of faithful from the tiny St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, which was destroyed along with the World Trade Center, gathered in a makeshift canvas sanctuary on Wednesday, where they marked St. Nicholas Day and the 90th anniversary of their parish.

"We have constructed a church for a day," said Peter Drakoulias, a church board member, before the afternoon service that drew worshippers from Boston, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

As part of the ceremony, Archbishop Demetrios, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, read the names of some Greek-Americans who died in the 2001 terror attacks.

Among them was John K. Katsimatides, an employee of the Cantor Fitzgerald bond brokerage.

"Once a week, my brother used to stop by this church, light a candle and pray," said his sister, Anthoula Katsimatides.

The Sept. 11 attack decimated the landmark church that was once a refuge for everyone from Wall Street traders on their lunch break to Greek sailors who believed St. Nicholas, their patron saint, would keep their ships from sinking.

The church, with barely enough seating for 100 people, also drew some of the world's rich and famous, including shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis and "Kojak" actor Telly Savalas.

Parishioners have raised more than $4 million to rebuild the house of worship at or near its original site, an area just south of the one-time trade center location.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the 16 acres of the World Trade Center site, has yet to approve a final plan for rebuilding St. Nicholas.

"We're just a little church, a small piece of the reconstruction, and we're being patient," said Drakoulias.

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On the Net:

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church: http://www.stnicholasnyc.com


© 2006 The Associated Press