Message from Father Andreas Vithoulkas
Proïstamenos and Archiepiscopal Vicar of the Saint Nicholas National Shrine
These remarks are drawn from the presentation Fr. Andreas made at the Leadership 100 Annual Conference in Naples, Florida on February 11th.
First of all, I want to express my gratitude to His Eminence for his blessing, and the Leadership One Hundred Family for their gracious invitation, to make this presentation today. The trust that our Archbishop has shown me to be the first Proïstamenos of the Saint Nicholas National Shrine is truly humbling and sobering.
Being with all of you today is heartening for me, because I know the tremendous support that Leadership One Hundred has given to the Shrine. The Friends of Saint Nicholas has been the singular driving force behind completing the Shrine, and fulfilling the vision of His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros. The fact that Leadership One Hundred has shared this commitment and vision is encouraging to all of us who see in the National Shrine, a nationwide ministry that is capable of bringing our Church together as never before.
Atop Liberty Park, and overlooking the Memorial Pools that are the exact footprints of the Twin Towers, our Shrine may seem small in respect to its surroundings, but we occupy perhaps the most important parcel of the sixteen acre site.
For in a sea of glass and steel, we are and island of sanctuary, a rock of faith, made from the same stone as the Parthenon of Athens. Literally so! The same Pentelic Marble that was hewn and carried all those miles from Mount Pendelikon, and then hoisted high atop the Acropolis – twenty-five hundred years ago! – this is the same marble that has been granted to us by the Government of Greece to remake our Saint Nicholas Church.
Many people do not know that the Parthenon of Athens, perhaps the most recognizable building in the world, was built following a catastrophic attack on Athens during the Persian Wars. In fact, the Parthenon was a re-building of a prior temple that was destroyed in the fires that consumed nearly all of ancient Athens. Recent discoveries found relics of the first Temple carefully and, I would say, lovingly, buried in the new foundation.
This says a lot about our new Saint Nicholas National Shrine. The precious Church on Cedar Street, was destroyed in the hate-filled attack of 9/11. We have rebuilt it not only as an act of remembrance, but as an act of love. And we will enshrine the few precious objects that survived the catastrophe of 9/11.
The Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine will be a perpetual memorial and witness to our Faith, to religious liberty, and to the values of this country that were attacked on 9/11.
As the new Proïstamenos of the Shrine, I cannot adequately express to you how expectant I am – as is the community – for our first Holy Week and Pascha in the Church in the two decades since 9/11. The Parish Council has been reconstituted as a special body – because it is an Archdiocesan Institution.
We are working with great intensity to complete the amazing new program of Iconography approve by His Eminence. And working with the Friends of Saint Nicholas, who will continue in a new iteration as an Endowment Fund for the Shrine, we have already begun preparing for the Consecration by our Archbishop during the Clergy Laity Congress.
In closing, allow me to thank you once again – all the Members of Leadership One Hundred, for what you have done to make our National Shrine a reality.
I look forward to welcoming you there in the coming months, and to years of service to Christ and His Holy Church in the ministry of our National Shrine.