Cardinal Roger M. Mahony Discusses Controversial New Los Angeles
atop a hill in downtown Los Angeles overlooking the Hollywood Freeway stands
Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral, the $195 million structure that was dedicated
on September 2 by Cardinal Roger M. Mahony. Inside the deluxe and contemporary
cathedral are side chapels, numerous works of art, a reconciliation room and a
Blessed Sacrament chapel. But swirling outside the new cathedral is controversy
over its massive price tag.
evolution of the new cathedral is featured in the October issue of St.
Anthony Messenger. In the article, Assistant Editor John Bookser Feister
examines the lengths Cardinal Mahony took to plan and erect Our Lady of the
Angels and guides the reader on a walking tour of the new cathedral. After
September 26, the article will be posted at: AmericanCatholic.org.
Mahony first announced plans for a new cathedral in 1996, but the concept has
been in the works as early as 1904. St. Vibiana Cathedral was in a poor
location. Parking was limited and the city condemned the building after the
1994 Northridge earthquake. According to Cardinal Mahony, the city of Los
Angeles was in need of a new cathedral.
After purchasing a 5.5-acre
site on the edge of downtown, one of the highest points in L.A., construction
on the new cathedral began. Protestors soon followed. Activists picketed the
site and blocked a groundbreaking ceremony with civil disobedience. But
construction on the cathedral proceeded as planned.
Cardinal Mahony is quick to
respond to the protestors’ complaints. “It amazes me that they can build an
arena like the new Staples Center for $400 million…or the Disney Concert Hall
for $300 million and nobody says a word about that!” He believes the new
cathedral is, nevertheless, worth the hassle. He hired a world-renowned
contemporary architect, José Rafael Moneo, and later commissioned some of the
top artists in the Western region to create tapestries, sculptures and
furniture for the worship space. Mahony, in fact, had a hand in every step of
the cathedral’s construction, even designing its massive altar.
The result is an expansive,
deluxe cathedral with an extensive subterranean mausoleum, a 2.5-acre plaza on
the outside for worship, a conference center, an adjoining rectory and a
600-space underground parking garage. Inside the cathedral, visitors are
treated to works of art, including a set of large tapestries lining the nave.
Among the tapestries are Mother Teresa standing alongside Pope John XXIII and
another tapestry of young people from various races, wearing sneakers.
Architect Moneo sought to “bring with us our 2,000-year tradition. But at the
same time, the Church needs to say something new to the millennium.”
Cardinal Mahony believes the
purpose of Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral greatly outweighs the controversy
in planning and building it. “You can come and go, and everybody mingles
here—the poorest of the poor, the richest of the rich. It is the city’s common
ground to bring everybody together.”
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