Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Preparing for Liftoff

Three weeks from tomorrow, the US church's most ambitious cathedral project in memory reaches fruition as Oakland's $190 million Cathedral of Christ the Light is dedicated.

Located along the banks of the East Bay city's Lake Merritt, the outer reaches of the postmodern, all-glass structure (capacity: 1,500) have already been moved into; alongside its main role as the 500,000-member diocese's mother-church, the complex houses the chancery, parish rectory, a conference center and the residence of Bishop Allen Vigneron.

Elsewhere on the grounds, a completed "healing garden" dedicated to victims of clergy sex abuse has garnered some advance national attention, but the 1,700-niche mausoleum and free, Knights of Malta-sponsored health clinic for the uninsured won't be ready until weeks after the grand opening.

Guided tours are slated to begin October 1st, and in the meantime an expansive photo gallery's up.

The Oakland mother-church will be the last of four mother-churches inaugurated by Stateside dioceses this decade: Dodge City's Our Lady of Guadalupe was dedicated on the Kansas church's 50th anniversary in 2001, LA's $185 million Our Lady of the Angels opened six years ago yesterday, and the nation's fourth-largest city got its first permanent ecclesial hub in early April as Houston's $64 million Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart signaled American Catholicism's rapid rise in the region that had long stood as its final frontier.

Two days after the cathedral celebration, another dedication'll be taking place across the Bay Bridge in the city that bears the Poverello's name as the National Shrine of St Francis in North Beach opens an exact replica -- the first of its kind -- of the Portiuncula of Assisi. Doing the honors'll be San Fran's former archbishop, now the global church's "Grand Inquisitor," Cardinal William Levada.

PHOTOS: John Blaustein