Consecration of the State Street Cathedral
Consecration of the State Street Cathedral
The Post St. Raphael Era to the Present
The saintly bishop was succeeded by Archimandrite Aftimios Ofiesh, a priest from Montreal, Quebec. It was during his episcopacy that the present building at 355 State Street in Brooklyn was purchased from the Episcopalians in 1920. Prior to the acquisition, it was called St. Peter's Episcopal Church. The parishioners were successful in converting it into an Orthodox House of worship with the proper iconostasis, icons, chandeliers, etc. Unfortunately during the Great Depression, the church and the adjacent property were lost because the mortgage could not be paid, but the parishioners managed to rent it on a monthly basis. A new vision to form an "American Orthodox Church" emerged with Archbishop AFTIMIOS as its administrator. With the blessing of the Russian Archdiocese, the Priest Emmanuel Abohatab was consecrated in 1928 as the Bishop of Montreal, and the Priest Sophronios Bishara was consecrated as the Bishop of the West Coast. The vision of the American Church was short-lived however. Archbishop AFTIMIOS was forced to leave the episcopacy in 1933 because he chose to marry. He lived to a ripe-old age and died in 1966. Bishop EMMANUEL, who continued to edit "Al Kalimat" as often as he could, served admirably until his death in 1933. The Bishop SOPHRONIOS also died in the middle of his career. In the meantime, a bishop from the Synod of Antioch had been ministering to some churches in America. His Eminence, the Metropolitan GERMANOS (Shahadi) had managed to bring several churches into his "jurisdiction" and the Syrian Church in North America found itself greatly divided into the "Russy-Antaki" factions.
Then in the early 1930s, all the Arabic-speaking bishops died, and the Russian Church found itself in the chaotic state due to the Revolution in Russia. The Church in Antioch sent Archbishop VICTOR (Abouassaly) to unite the Arabic-speaking people in North America under Antiochian care. Shortly before his untimely death, Bishop EMMANUEL learned that his efforts to place the churches of the Syrian Mission under the care of the Church of Antioch were successful. Archbishop VICTOR spent his short-lived episcopacy trying to in fact unite all his people. He too died at a young age in 1934.
As the Patriarchal Vicar in North America, Archmandrite Antony Bashir was successful in getting St. Nicholas Cathedral of Brooklyn back into the hands of its rightful owners. The mortgage was paid because of the generosity of certain parishioners and the church building was saved, however, the adjacent property was never recovered.. After the death of Archbishop VICTOR, Archmandrite Antony Bashir was elevated by the Holy Synod of Antioch to be the Bishop of New York and All North America. He was consecrated on April 19, 1936, in St. Nicholas Cathedral of Brooklyn, and served with distinction and honor, greatly loved by his flock throughout the United States and Canada. It was to his credit that the Church in North America was "Americanized", that is, brought into the 20th Century. However one event "plagued" his episcopacy of thirty years. A group of Arabic-speaking people, also within the Church of Antioch, followed the Archmandrite Samuel David into division. Consecrated by the Russian bishops, he formed the Archdiocese of Toledo, Ohio and Dependencies. This painful division would continue until 1975, when the two groups, led by Metropolitans PHILIP and MICHAEL, agreed to united under the leadership of Metropolitan PHILIP.
The Deans of the Cathedral have been the following: Archmandrite Raphael Hawaweeny (1895-1904), Archmandrite Aftimos Ofiesh (1905-1907), Archpriest Basil Kerbawy (1907-1938), Archpriest Makarios Moore (1938-1947), Archpriest Wakeem Dalack (1947-1962), Archimandrite Gregory Abboud (1962-1978), Archimandrite Antoun Khouri (1978-1983), Archimandrite Demetri Khoury (1983-1987), Archpriest George S. Corey (1987-1997), and Archpriest Thomas Zain (1997 - present). The priests who have been attached to the Cathedral for limited service have been Fathers Constantine AbouAdal, Ingram N.V. Irvine, Basil Sydawy, Peter Billard, Farid Farkouh, Abdallah Khoury, Ananias Kassab, Richard Simmons, Richard Tinker, Gregory Samaan, Matthew George, Stephan Adams, John Vesic, Gregory MacGregor and Deacons Emmanuel Abohatab, Ilyas Kurban and Joseph Thomas.
The Cathedral prospered during those years when the Church School was formed, the Liturgical Choir began using English as well as Arabic, and the youth movement became a reality (SOYO). Before the untimely death of the Archimandrite Gregory Abboud on June 29, 1978 (at the age of 55), he was instrumental in founding the St. Nicholas Home for the Aged, now located in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn and simply known as the St. Nicholas Home. The parishioners of the Cathedral put all of their efforts in funding the home in the 60s and 70s. Although it is no longer officially part of the Cathedral, the St. Nicholas Home continues to be supported by the individual contributions of many within the Cathedral community.
Upon the death of Metropolitan ANTONY in 1966 (Archbishop SAMUEL had died in 1958), the leadership of the Antiochian Archdiocese passed on to Archimandrite Philip Saliba who was consecrated in Lebanon on August 14, 1966. The Archdiocese, under Metropolitan PHILIP's magnificent leadership, has been united for the first time since it was formed as "The Syrian Mission" in 1904. Archbishop MICHAEL (Shaheen), who resided in Toledo, Ohio, served as the Auxiliary until his death in 1992. Bishop DEMETRI served the Archdiocese from the Toledo chancery from 1995 until his retirement in 2003.
In 2002, our Archdiocese petitioned the Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East for autonomy or self-rule during the June meeting of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate. The request was blessed and, at the October 2003 meeting of the Holy Synod of Antioch, the tomos was signed and self-rule was finalized. As a result of the new self-rule, dioceses were established. The bishops of the new dioceses were Their Graces, ANTOUN of Miami and the Southeast, JOSEPH of Los Angeles and the West, BASIL of Wichita and Mid-America, THOMAS of Charleston, Oakland, PA and the Mid-Atlantic, MARK of Toledo and the Midwest and ALEXANDER of Ottawa, Eastern Canada and Upstate New York. In August of 2010, after a new resolution of the Holy Synod of Antioch, the former diocesan bishops became auxiliaries who assist the Metropolitan in our one, undivided archdiocese.
The present Dean of the Cathedral is the Very Rev. Fr. Thomas P. Zain
who will be responsible for moving the Cathedral into the 21st Century with God's help and the intercessions of our Patron, St. Nicholas the Wonder-Worker and Bishop of Myra in Lycia and St. Raphael of Brooklyn, the saintly bishop who established our Cathedral.
Thus, the history of the Archdiocese and of St. Nicholas Cathedral of Brooklyn are one and the same. St. Nicholas Cathedral is the oldest continuous church in the Archdiocese and its only Mother Cathedral. Here we see a long and illustrious history because of the love, devotion and sacrifices of the venerable hierarchy, the greatly respected priests and deacons and the holy people of God who have served and continue to serve.