Patriarch Bartholomew visits ground zero, pledges rebirth of church

Posted: Friday, March 15, 2002

NEW YORK (AP) -- Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the world's 300 million Orthodox Christians, visited ground zero and vowed to rebuild an Orthodox church destroyed in the terrorist attacks.

''We have come to this place of martyrdom, which endured unprecedented and atrocious acts perpetrated by men on that unforgettable and woeful day of Sept. 11,'' said the 62-year-old prelate as he presided over a memorial service last weekend on a visitors' platform overlooking the site.

Bartholomew, who is based in Istanbul, Turkey, was joined at the site by Archbishop Demetrios, the spiritual leader of the 2 million Greek Orthodox faithful in the United States.

They were joined in prayer by a delegation of Orthodox bishops and priests, as well as the families of more than 40 terrorism victims of Greek origin whose names were recited during the service.

St. Nicholas Church, which stood at the southeast corner of the site on Cedar Street, was destroyed in the attacks. Only a few icons of Christian Orthodox saints survived.

The Orthodox community worldwide has already pledged $2 million to fund reconstruction of the church, which New York Gov. George Pataki has promised will rise on about the same spot, according to Anthoula Katsamatidis, an aide to the governor. Katsamatidis' 31-year-old brother, John, died in the offices of Cantor Fitzgerald.

Earlier in the week, Bartholomew met with President Bush.

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