Los Angeles, Sept. 3--(AP) The newest U.S. cathedral opened Monday amid prayers and controversy as protesters condemned the $195 million cost and Roman Catholics continued to struggle with a national sex abuse scandal.

Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral was dedicated during a three-hour service that incorporated the many ethnic backgrounds of the community's faithful, from Vietnamese singing to African drumming to children in traditional Mexican dress. Cardinal Roger Mahony led a procession of some 3,000 people, including more than 560 priests, bishops and other clergy, through the sweltering 90-degree Fahrenheit heat of the courtyard, past the 25-ton bronze doors and into the cool stone interior. "My friends, welcome to the city's and your new cathedral," a beaming Mahony said as guests settled into the new cherrywood pews. "It is truly exhilarating to see it filled with people ... this is what it is all about."

Pope John Paul II sent a message that was read during the ceremony, saying the cathedral represents the diversity of Los Angeles. "May this cathedral always remain an eloquent symbol of communion and fraternity, of mutual respect and understanding," said the pope's messenger, Cardinal James Francis Stafford.

Spanish architect Jose Rafael Moneo, whose style is noted for combining classic architectural themes with modern designs, built the towering, 11-story cathedral with asymmetrical design and lack of right angles. While its sandstone-colored walls evoke visions of California's 18th century Spanish missions, some critics have compared the cathedral's austere, modernistic look to a prison.

Mahony and supporters see the cathedral a symbolic new beginning for the nation's largest archdiocese, one of many that has suffered from the scandal of sexual abuse allegations against priests. The stock market decline also has taken a deep bite out of the archdiocese's budget, forcing cuts for ministry and education by as much as 30 percent and a scaling back of the opening celebrations.

During Monday's ceremony, dozens of people gathered outside the cathedral to protest the church's handling of the abuse scandal and the cost of the building. A large papier-mache effigy of Mahony held a sign saying: "Suffer the little children." Signs urged "No fat cat cathedral."

Demonstrator Alice Callahan said the money for the cathedral should have been used to help the poor and homeless. "I think the church would begin to look very redeemed if it would take all the artwork it just bought, that alone was dlrs 30 million, and sell it," she said.

Tod Tamberg, spokesman for the archdiocese, said the cathedral was mainly funded through private donations and "not one dime" was taken from church social service programs. Money raised from a 6,000-space mausoleum, built beneath the cathedral, along with a gift shop, restaurant, conference center and a 600-car parking garage are expected to help cover ongoing expenses.

Built on a hill overlooking the traffic-choked Hollywood Freeway, the cathedral also stands as a reflection of Mahony's commitment to the city's downtown. Along with drawing from California's 9 million Roman Catholics, it is expected to draw tourists from Europe, South America and Asia and become a focal point for downtown redevelopment.

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