ORANGE, CALIF. (AP) - The Diocese of Orange has closed on its purchase of the shimmering Crystal Cathedral and surrounding 31-acre grounds, putting the iconic building seen as a testament to televangelism in Catholic hands.
The diocese said Friday that escrow proceedings had closed on its $57.5 million purchase of the property, which will become the site of a long-sought cathedral for Orange County's nearly 1.3 million Catholics.
The sale of the sprawling property in Garden Grove was critical for the financially ailing Crystal Cathedral to help pay creditors and emerge from federal bankruptcy protection.
"Our goal is to preserve an already cherished religious landmark and to enhance its worship use for Orange County Catholics and all people of faith who may be inspired by this wonderful, now Catholic, cathedral," Bishop Tod. D. Brown said in a statement.
The sale of the building designed by renowned architect Philip Johnson could mark an end to the storied televangelist ministry broadcast that came crashing down in hard times.
The building's glass-paned walls that let worshippers see the sky is the backdrop for the church's "Hour of Power" televangelist program, which is the source of 70 percent of the church's revenue.
Many churchgoers opposed the sale of the building to the diocese, preferring an alternative presented in a bidding war by Orange County's Chapman University that would have let the ministry continue to use the site. But church board members and founder Rev. Robert H. Schuller decided in the end they wanted to keep the building as a house of worship.
"It is time for all believers not to focus on differences, but on respect and appreciation for our common goals," Schuller said in a statement. "Today is not an ending; rather, it is a divine continuance of a beautiful, sacred campus that was dedicated to the greater glory of God."
Experts say the ministry will need to work to rebuild its identity after losing its iconic home. There will be a period of transition. The ministry can continue to use the glimmering church and other campus structures for up to three years while diocese officials prepare the site for Catholic worship.
For example, the church will need a central altar and a baptismal font, diocese officials said.
The Crystal Cathedral sought bankruptcy protection in 2010, citing a drop in revenues following the recession. A message was left at the church Friday seeking comment.