By Richard C. Dujardin
Journal Staff Writer
NEWPORT, R.I. –– As controversy continues to swirl about the plans by a Muslim group to build an 11-story mosque a couple of blocks from Ground Zero, some Greek Orthodox Christians here and in New York say they are puzzled as to why there has been so little progress in the rebuilding of yet another house of worship. St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, a tiny, four-story building that had been located directly in front of the second tower, at 155 Cedar St. was destroyed in the collapse of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. It has yet to be rebuilt, despite assurances in July 2008, regarding a tentative plan to rebuild the church just east of its original site.
Those negotiations fell through, however, with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey saying the church was demanding too much money, and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of New York asserting that Port Authority had apparently decided to renege on the deal and refused to meet with church officials even to discuss it.
The Rev. George Economou, the pastor of St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church in Newport, said he learned of the problem this week when he read a story in the Greek Hellenic Voice.
“I, for one, am very upset, and I’m sure that others are concerned. I am very puzzled why the Muslims would be allowed to build a center so close to Ground Zero while a church – that stood at that site many years even before the World Trade Center – would get such a run-around.
“From a legal perspective we are a free country, and people are free to express their faith. My concern this plan [to build a mosque] close to Ground Zero expresses a Muslim insensitivity to all who lost loved ones. I find it hard to believe they are doing this to promote peace and understanding. I think Islam is a religion of violence and that promotes converting people to Islam.”