Houston's co-cathedral is complete

HOUSTON But the /*Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart*/ is not considered a holy place, at least not yet. That will come next Wednesday when Catholic hierarchy from around the world gather to dedicate, or rather, baptize the new building.

They are preparing for one of the most important religious ceremonies ever to take place in Houston.

FULL COVERAGE: Go inside the new co-cathedral
VIDEO: Video coverage of the co-cathedral

"Let us pray that God our almighty father will bless this oil," said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo.

He's blessing what's called "the Chrism oil" that will be used in the dedication of the new catholic co-cathedral.

"And we hope that this building is an invitation for people to come in, quiet, prayer, no matter what their faith, and to realize here is also another home and another aspect of this great city of Houston," said DiNardo.

Located in the heart of downtown Houston, it took 7 years to secure the land, raise the $40 million, design and build the new co-cathedral. But now, finally, it is complete. And Friday, for the first time, it will be unveiled to the public when members of the media will be allowed in.

Even though the building is finished, it's not yet considered a place of worship. That will come Wednesday when hundreds gather to bless the building.

In a three-hour ceremony, Cardinal DiNardo, along with other cardinals, archbishops, bishops, and priests from around the world, will perform rituals dating back to when Christianity began.

"It's as though, in an analogy, we're baptizing the building," said Cardinal DiNardo.

During the dedication, a letter from Pope Benedict will be read. There will be prayers and music. But most of service will center around the altar, found directly below the dome of the new cathedral.

"As you look down, you see the crucifix and then the altar, which is the central part of the whole cathedral, the altar where the Eucharist is offered in sacrifice," said Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza.

The altar itself is one solid piece of semi-precious stone so valuable, it's normally used for jewelry. It was cut and polished in Carrara, Italy.

"Everything that you can see in this piece is done by hands. Machine can help, but the profile of the edge, the corner, everything is done by hand," said Italian artist Roberto Lape.

The color red was chosen to represent the blood of Christ. On dedication day, relics will be buried in a small receptacle underneath the altar. Actual bones of saints, including St. Therese, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the very first American saint, St. Leo the Great, and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.

"And that is to remind us of the early days of Christianity when the first couple of centuries of Christianity, it was forbidden in the Roman empire, so they had to go underground to celebrate the Eucharist and a lot of times, they would celebrate the Eucharist in the catacombs where the people were buried," said Archbishop Fiorenza.

The altar will then be anointed, rubbed with the sacred Chrism oil blessed earlier by the very breathe of Cardinal DiNardo.

"I will take the oil of chrism, which is a type of holy oil, olive oil mixed with perfume, and pour it literally all over the altar and it will be spread all over the altar as a sign of its dedication," said Cardinal DiNardo. "Then we'll take that same chrism and we will anoint 12 places in the building, symbolic of the 12 apostles, the foundations of the church."

The oil, along with holy water, is used to symbolize, washing away evil. Once the building is anointed, the first mass begins; the first of hundreds, thousands even to take place inside Houston's newest house of prayer.

The mass is closed to the public, but you can watch it on Channel 13 next Wednesday beginning at 11am, and the service follows at noon.

The first public mass at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart will be Saturday, April 5 at 5:30pm. It will be led by Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza.  You don't need to call or register ahead of time. Just show up. There will be docents at several stations to provide information to the visitors. For large groups, a docent can be provided so that the group is guided and moves along.

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