Against the dramatic backdrop of the unfinished Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony announced Tuesday that the $75-million edifice is on schedule and will be dedicated in little more than a year.
The Sept. 2, 2002, consecration of the massive mother church of the nation's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese will come during two weeks of celebratory events expected to draw thousands from throughout Southern California and the nation.
Already, the 11-story cathedral, designed by Spanish architect Jose Rafael Moneo, has reached its maximum height. Construction began in 1997.
Mahony called the cathedral a symbol of transcendent values, "a sign of the universal call to holiness that extends to each one of us." It will cover 57,000 square feet of interior space, and, at 333 feet in length, will be a foot longer than St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York.
The complex will open to the public months before the cathedral is dedicated. A 600-car underground parking garage beneath the 2.5-acre Cathedral Plaza will open Jan. 2.
On April 1, the church will open a landscaped plaza, which will include waterfalls, fountains, carillon bells, a shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe, a conference center, gift shop and cafe. The garage, plaza and conference center will cost $88 million.
On Tuesday, Mahony showed off several 60-foot-high clerestory windows of translucent alabaster stone. By the time the remaining windows are finished in August, the alabaster--with veins of deep green, warm red to dark gray and brown--will cover 27,000 square feet of surface area, more alabaster than at any church in the world.
Though the cathedral will be the principal church of the Los Angeles archdiocese, Mahony said, it will be a place of welcome for all. One of the celebrations planned is for the homeless.
"I want everyone in Southern California to know: Whoever you are and wherever you live, the Cathedral of Our lady of the Angels is your home," Mahony said.
He spoke movingly Tuesday of his own emotions as opening day nears.
"It's very humbling," he told reporters, noting that a new cathedral was first envisioned by Bishop Thomas Conaty in 1904. But Conaty and other bishops and archbishops who followed him never had the opportunity to build it.
"It just happened; a confluence of God's providence and circumstances brought about this particular moment," Mahony said--adding with a grin, "helped a little bit by the Northridge earthquake."
The 1994 quake severely damaged old St. Vibiana's Cathedral, located several blocks away. Eventually the decision was made to build a new cathedral. St. Vibiana's has been decommissioned and sold. Its stained glass windows will be refitted in the new cathedral's crypt.
Mahony said he often thinks of passersby on the Hollywood Freeway or city streets who see the cathedral on the hill, "sacred space in the heart of our city in a way that we never experienced before."
Mahony, who rarely shares his personal thoughts in public, spoke of walking amid the dusty ground, construction equipment and stacks of building materials at night after workers have gone home.
"I really get excited and envision all the people who will come here over the years, and over the centuries," Mahony said.
"I guess I just stand there imagining this wonderful flow of people--coming and going, enjoying the beauty, the water, the features, the fountains, the flowers, the trees, the cathedral inside and outside--who will come and be nourished here. It's just very powerful to imagine them."
He paused an instant. "Of course long after I'm gone this will continue through the centuries."