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New LA Cathedral opens doors amid protest

America's newest cathedral opened on Monday accompanied by incense, prayers and controversy as protesters condemned its $A354 million cost and the faithful continue to struggle with priestly sex abuse.

Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral - an adobe-coloured structure intentionally built 31 cm longer than St Patrick's Cathedral in New York - was dedicated during a three-hour, multiethnic service.

Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop of the nation's largest archdiocese, led a procession of about 3000 people, including more than 560 priests, bishops and other clergy, in a journey of heat and light. Several people collapsed and were revived as the temperature reached 35 degrees.

With organ music playing, Mahony moved his flock from the sweltering 90-degree heat in the cathedral's courtyard through 25.4 metric ton bronze doors into the cool stone and cement interior.

The cathedral's austere, modernistic look has been compared by critics to a prison or shopping mall. But the earth-toned walls, lit by sunlight streaming through alabaster windows, became less stark with the presence of parishioners and a choir.

"My friends, welcome to the city's, and your, new cathedral," a beaming Mahony said as guests settled into the new cherry wood pews. "It is truly exhilarating to see it filled with people. . . . This is what it is all about."

Dozens of people gathered outside the cathedral to protest against the church's handling of the abuse scandal and the high cost of the building at a time when the stock market has taken a deep bite out of the archdiocese's budget. In recent weeks, church officials have announced cuts for ministry and education by as much as 30%.

Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels
Cathedral Opening Slideshow
Archdiocese of Los Angeles

San Jose Mercury News - AP

4 Sep 2002