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Cathedral Has Potential as a Great Crossroads

September 07, 2002

Cardinal Roger Mahony now has the rare opportunity to make the new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels the most important attraction in all of Los Angeles. Now that the pageantry and the formalities are over, along with the elitism that accompanied the opening ceremonies, it is time to turn the cathedral over to the ordinary people to whom it rightly belongs. One should look to those cathedrals that draw thousands of worshipers and tourists almost daily to their sites, and we can easily duplicate their commonality. The three that come to mind are the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City, San Marco in Venice and, of course, Notre Dame in Paris. All cater to common people, and all have large plazas to accommodate large numbers of people.

I can envision busloads of the faithful arriving from all the Western states, making pilgrimages to honor their favorite saint. I can see supplicants crawling on their knees across the plaza to plead for answers to their prayers. I hope we will be able to see people casually sitting over a coffee, iced tea, a glace, etc. It can be a great meeting place and a serious place for the convergence of both the rich and poor of our great city, where the rich can see the poor and then contribute to solving our mutual problems. A place to bring people of all faiths together.

It will bring people from far and wide for ceremonies and rituals that only a cathedral can make meaningful. It can have a huge spillover effect on the neighborhood of Broadway, with its shopping, and Grand Avenue, with its cultural venues. It will invigorate Olvera Street. It can do for the downtown what nothing to date has done--bring it alive as a 24-hour-a-day event.

James M. Honigman

Los Angeles

*

The new downtown cathedral is a stunning example of how architecture is a concrete expression of the psyche of those who build it and dwell in it. Nicolai Ouroussoff's flowery prose ("Cathedral Embodies Spiritual Journey," Sept. 2) cannot obscure what any layman can clearly see: The fortress-like structure is more in the style of a walled community for the wealthy Catholics of Los Angeles. It is a castle built by a cardinal, and a church, under siege. Architect Jose Rafael Moneo merely forgot the moat and the drawbridge.

Tony Schmitz

North Hollywood

*

Of all the critics of the cathedral, I am willing to wager that none are in need of a wheelchair for mobility. St. Vibiana's stank for accessibility--getting to it, getting into it and getting around inside it. Now, my quadriplegic, legally blind wife can hop in her power chair, go to the Metrolink station half a mile from us, ride to Union Station, take the Red Line to Civic Center station and then ride a block to Our Lady of the Angels. Then she can run around the plaza, drive up to the altar and up and down the aisles.

Now, if it took millions of dollars to make my wife able to be free at worship in the cardinal's place of business (albeit God's house), then that somehow sounds like fulfilling the command to be caring toward the "least" of the brethren.

George W. Heath

Chatsworth

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