More than 1,500 people heard the Most Reverend Tod D. Brown, Bishop of the Diocese of Orange in California, make the announcement today at the close of the ordination ceremony in St. Columban Church, where he ordained four new priests who will serve the diocese.
The Crystal Cathedral was designed by architect Philip Johnson, and opened in 1980 as home to Pastor Robert Schuller’s nationally syndicated “Hour of Power” broadcast. In recent years the ministry ran into hard times, facing declining participation and internal struggles; and it finally filed for bankruptcy protection. After a court challenge and a nail-biting bidding war with Chapman University, the Roman Catholic diocese won the bid for the Crystal Cathedral and its 40-acre campus in November 2011. (I wrote about the ups and downs leading up to the sale, and about the Schuller family’s friendly relationship with the Catholic Church, last November; read about it here.)
So why, after more than 4,100 people entered a competition to choose the new name, did the Diocese choose “Christ Cathedral”? From the beginning, Bishop Tod Brown has promised to give the new edifice a name that is Christological in significance.
“We hold Reverend Schuller and his ministry in the highest esteem,” Bishop Brown noted at the conclusion of the Ordination Mass. “It was important that any change of name for the cathedral itself be respectful of its spiritual legacy while accommodating our needs to clearly define this important facility as a Catholic center of worship.”
The formal process for the naming of a Catholic Church requires that the proposed name be submitted to the Congregation of Bishops, the curia in Rome. Bishop Brown submitted Christ Cathedral as the proposed name, as required, and received approval from the curia on April 26, 2012.
As I wrote in 2011, the Crystal Cathedral under Reverend Schuller has long enjoyed a friendly relationship with the Catholic Church, inviting such notable Catholics to its pulpit as Mother Teresa and Bishop Fulton J. Sheen. That trend has continued in the months leading up to the building’s transformation to a Catholic cathedral:
- On May 10, 2012, the Crystal Cathedral welcomed Kathleen Eaton, president of Birth Choice Health Clinics and a prominent California Catholic, for a free pro-life event at the church. Other keynote speakers for Birth Choice’s 31st anniversary celebration included Lila Rose, president of Live Action; Kristan Hawkins, director of Students for Life of America, and other noted pro-life speakers.
- On May 13, 2012—Mother’s Day—Robert Schuller’s grandson, Reverend Bobby Schuller, returned to the pulpit as the Crystal Cathedral honored Mother Teresa, humanitarian, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and now, a Catholic saint.
The Diocese of Orange has been leasing the cathedral back to the Crystal Cathedral Ministries for $150,000 per month; but just this week, the ministry accepted an invitation to move to nearby St. Callistus Catholic Church in June 2013. The diocese has offered the use of the St. Callistus property free for one year, after which monthly rent payments would be required.
I spoke recently with Tim Busch, lead attorney for the diocese in the purchase of the property. Busch confirmed that significant changes will be required to make the Crystal Cathedral suitable for Catholic worship. The worship space will be gutted, save for the organ; a new floor will be installed. An altar, pulpit, ambo, baptismal font, pews and kneelers will be added, as well as a sacristy. Given the extensive renovations required, no date has been announced for the cathedral’s reopening.