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Archive for Monday, September 2, 2002

L.A. cathedral opens in troubled times

September 2, 2002

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— The 25-ton bronze doors of Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral will swing open today to the first dedication of a new U.S. cathedral in a quarter century. But in the background, economic concerns and a continuing sex abuse scandal loom large for the Catholic Church.

Protesters angered by the church's handling of sex abuse allegations are expected among the thousands of priests and visitors during the dedication ceremony today outside the cathedrals' thick, adobe-colored walls.

Workmen put finishing touches on the main entrance to the new
Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. The cathedral,
which opens today, was designed to be a downtown landmark and a
crowning achievement in the career of Cardinal Roger Mahony, head
of America's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese. But clouding the
opening of the cathedral is an ongoing sexual abuse scandal and
financial problems within the church.

Workmen put finishing touches on the main entrance to the new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. The cathedral, which opens today, was designed to be a downtown landmark and a crowning achievement in the career of Cardinal Roger Mahony, head of America's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese. But clouding the opening of the cathedral is an ongoing sexual abuse scandal and financial problems within the church.

Cardinal Roger Mahony, the leader of the nation's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese, said the landmark cathedral, like the Catholic Church itself, will rise above the turmoil.

"A cathedral is timeless in terms of human joys and difficulties," Mahony said. "We've had over the course of time and history many saints and sinners in the church. The cathedral stands as its own reflection of God's presence."

The $195 million cathedral intentionally a foot longer than New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral is Spanish architect Rafael Moneo's postmodern interpretation of California's original Spanish missions, including sloping floors, high ceilings and muted tapestries that depict saints and worshippers.

Artists and designers have added symbols from diverse beliefs and languages as a way of welcoming everyone, Mahony said.

The bronze doors carry symbols of deities from around the world, and a disc-like water sculpture in the entry is inscribed with the biblical phrase "I will give you living water" in the 37 languages in which Mass is celebrated throughout the archdiocese.

Today's dedication, too, will draw on the diverse backgrounds of the community, with the music including Nigerian and Scottish drumming and a group of Vietnamese nuns carrying incense burners and singing.

A procession of 565 priests, bishops, archbishops and cardinals will cross the cathedral plaza and walk down the 333-foot-long nave. Mahony, five bishops and a monsignor will bless the building.

Built on a hill overlooking the traffic-choked Hollywood Freeway, the cathedral also stands as a reflection of Mahony's commitment to the city's downtown.

Along with drawing from California's 9 million Catholics, it is expected to draw tourists from Europe, South America and Asia and become a focal point for redevelopment of downtown.

There are no official projections, but tourism officials hope the number will top the 6 million people that visit St. Patrick's each year. The Staples Center, home of the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, is nearby, and the Disney Concert Hall is expected to open late next year

"The cathedral is another crown jewel in downtown," said Carol Schatz, of the Central City Assn., a downtown development group. "What brings downtowns back to life are a number of things, but one is architectural masterpieces that give people a reason to come downtown."

A church itself has struggled financially as the stock market decline has taken a deep bite out of the archdiocese's budget, forcing cuts for ministry and education by as much as 30 percent and a scaling back of the opening celebrations.

Most of the $195 million to build the cathedral was raised through private donations. A 6,000-space mausoleum, built beneath the cathedral, along with a gift shop, restaurant, conference center and a 600-car parking garage should cover most expenses, Mahony said.

Still daunting, though, is the shadow of the sex abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church.

"While Cardinal Mahony is celebrating his building, we'll be there to expose the lies and deceptions and deceit, which has been the foundation many victims have experienced in the church," said Mary Grant, who heads a Southern California chapter of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

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