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September 15, 2002  519 Words

Cardinal Roger M. Mahony Discusses Controversial New Los Angeles Cathedral

CINCINNATI—Perched 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.

The 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.

Cardinal 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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