St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in lower Manhattan, destroyed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, will reopen in 2016.
Church and political leaders broke ground on the new building two weeks ago, which will stand on the corner of Liberty and Greenwich streets.
Exarch of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America Archbishop Demetrios recalled walking through the church 13 years ago, after it was destroyed by rubble from the fallen towers.
"We remember this very place filled with ruins, hiding under piles of debris, the pulverised remains of 3,000 innocent victims," he said during the groundbreaking ceremony, according to the Huffington Post. "Breathing a very heavy air, saturated with the dust of storm, wood, iron and with tiny particles of human bodies, we remember walking with heavy hearts to the specific place where our St. Nicholas stood as a building. ...The church was not there. We stood there frozen, paralyzed, and cried."
The new church will be a 4,100-square-foot, domed building that can fit about 150 people – about twice the capacity of the old church. The space will also include a nonsectarian meditation area.
"It will be a refuge for people in need of spiritual comfort, regardless of their specific beliefs or unbeliefs," Archbishop Demetrios said.
Former New York Governor George Pataki described the significance of rebuilding St Nicholas.
"We had remembrance, we had commerce, but without St Nicholas, we did not have faith," he said. "Well now today, we have remembrance, we have commerce, we have that rock, we have faith, right here at St Nicholas.
"It was the Greek city-states that gave us our belief today in freedom," he continued. "It will now be the Greek Orthodox Church that is the rock of faith that anchors all that is done here at Ground Zero."
St Nicholas has raised $7 million of the $38 million needed to rebuild the church. Donations can be made on the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America website.