Unfit to Print [Editorial on New York Times Coverage of Rebuilding of St Nicholas Church at Ground Zero]

A rendering of the new St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, with conceptual images of a landscaped open space known as Liberty Park

A rendering of the new St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, with conceptual images of a landscaped open space known as Liberty Park

Source: The National Herald

Though we often agree that the New York Times, long regarded as “the paper of record” lives up to its tagline, “all the news that’s fit to print,” we believe that in the case of its October 31 story regarding the soon-to-be rebuilt St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church at Ground Zero, the Times has fallen short of that standard.

The Times’ acknowledgment that St. Nicholas’ design, as created by renowned architect Santiago Calatrava, was inspired by the Agia Sophia and the Church of the Holy Savior in Chora – both early Christian churches – it points out that both were later used as mosques and that because St. Nicholas will look like them “will almost certainly ignite a new round of debate over the role of religion at or around the World Trade Center. In 2010, national attention focused on a bitter fight over an Islamic community center and mosque that was proposed nearby.”

Why would the Times make that leap? Why would it take a wonderful moment, such as the progress of the Church’s rebuilding – years after it had been crushed into rubble during the 9/11 attack at Ground Zero – and link it with a story about religious intolerance from 2010 that has since stopped festering?

Perhaps the Times was being preemptively cautious, and we surely believe that it would strongly oppose any potential backlash against the Church’s design, based on any animosity arising from misconceptions that the architecture is rooted in Islam rather than in Christianity.

Nonetheless, even if the conclusion to which they jumped was influenced by good intentions, it is difficult for us to see how the reconstruction of the ruined church bears any relation to the outcry about a the mosque that had been built near, not on, Ground Zero in 2010.

Despite that lapse of judgment, there is good news to report. First, the Church’s high-profile location can serve as an opportunity to showcase the Greek Orthodox faith, which millions of Americans – Christian and non-Christian alike – do not even realize exists, let alone was the foundation of Christianity. Second, the renderings of the new church and the surrounding area that have been released are very impressive.

It is amazing just to think that at this monument of American and global history – where 12 years after the 9/11 catastrophe the debris has been cleared away, making way for a foundation where some of the most imposing buildings in the world now stand – an impressive Greek church will join them.

The architect, Calatrava, is well-known to Greeks from his work designing the 2004 Athens Olympics stadium. His choice for St. Nicholas’ design was wise where architectural symbolism is concerned. New York City has much in common with the city of Constantine, the capital of one of history’s greatest empires, which reigned as the greatest city and commercial center in Europe for almost 1000 years.

New York is the commercial capital of a great modern empire. And in the historic space at Ground Zero, the part of the city that juts into the harbor – a place similar to where Justinian chose to build his Great Church – a new, modern Aghia Sophia will be built. And even though New York has a comparatively smaller Greek population, the new St. Nicholas will help give rise to a new, modern, multicultural empire here in the United States.


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