Diocese of Orange wins bidding war for Crystal Cathedral

Crystal Cathedral / Credit Sarah Mount (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Crystal Cathedral / Credit Sarah Mount (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

.- A bankruptcy judge on Nov. 17 ruled in favor of the Diocese of Orange's $57.5 million offer for the iconic Crystal Cathedral over a bid from Chapman University.

Bishop Tod D. Brown vowed on Thursday that the diocese will “protect this wonderful structure as a place of worship and will soon provide our Catholic community with a new cathedral, pastoral center, parish school and more.”

The Crystal Cathedral will meet the needs of the 1.2 million Catholics in Orange County, the 10th largest diocese in the nation.

Judge Robert Kwan made his ruling at 7 p.m. on Nov. 17 after a grueling, week-long case that ultimately disappointed Chapman University which aimed to buy the property as a satellite campus.

Bishop Brown expressed sympathy for cathedral founder pastor Robert H. Schuller who filed for bankruptcy last October, after creditors sued for payment.

“We sincerely regret the difficult circumstances Dr. Schuller and his ministry have encountered,” the bishop noted. “Despite these wonderful results, we are nonetheless saddened by the events that led us to today’s award and offer our respect to Dr. Schuller and his ministry.”

Under the terms of agreement, the bishop said that occupancy of the building “will not be immediate” and that the Crystal Cathedral Ministries can continue to use the church and other campus structures for a period of up to three years.

“During the same period a diocesan pastoral center will be established on the Garden Grove campus and nearby parish school and church eventually transferred to the new location,” he explained.

Since July, the diocese had upped its bid from from $50 million to $53.6 million and finally $57.5 million on Nov. 14.

Although it has been planning for over 10 years to build a new, 2,500-seat cathedral in Santa Ana, the diocese had only hired an architect for the project and began to consider converting the bankrupt church into a Catholic cathedral.

Purchasing the Crystal Cathedral was an attractive option for the diocese because it provides an instant solution to its building needs and would cost roughly half the $100 million price tag for the planned Santa Ana cathedral.

The liturgist for the Orange diocese, Monsignor Arthur Holquin, said July 26 that several changes will need to take place in order for the Crystal Cathedral to become a Catholic worship space.

Along with a central altar, a tabernacle and a baptismal font, the building would need a “cathedra” or bishop’s chair. While renovations are needed to the building, “not much deconstruction would be required and the iconic personality of the original architecture and design would, for the most part, be retained,” he said.

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