LOS ANGELES: As tales of clergy sex scandals fade from front pages, the Los Angeles Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church is reaping positive press this week from the opening of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels.
The new cathedral in downtown Los Angeles is a $200 million dollar construction project, and will serve as the mother church in the nation's largest Catholic archdiocese.
Its week-long opening ceremonies have drawn media from around the country, giving the church a much-needed dose of positive press after a year of tough PR battles.
"A lot of the press have been following the construction of the cathedral over the past five or six years, said Tod Tamberg, director of media relations for the archdiocese. "A lot of them have also come back over time and have seen this grow,"
The head of the LA archdiocese, Cardinal Roger Mahony, has faced intense scrutiny and criticism in past months over a slew of alleged abuse cases in his jurisdiction. The church's image crisis became so dire that Mahony hired crisis communications specialists Sitrick & Company earlier this year to help publicize new policies regarding sexual offenders in the clergy.
But the two-person media relations team of the archdiocese has also been working for months to make sure that reporters understand the significance of the new cathedral and give it positive coverage. They have targeted both regional and national media with a long-term campaign to generate interest in the new church on many fronts, from business to architecture to travel magazines. Media tours have been almost non-stop, and as each phase of the project was completed - such as the massive carved bronze doors at the entrance - the press team made sure that architects, designers, and even Mahony were available for reporters. The result has been hundreds of stories.
"There's been a lot of hard work on our part, but the building suggests so many different stories and angles, said Tamberg. "And the Cardinal himself, his personality, helps drive this positive coverage."
The PR work culminates this week with a series of events for the grand opening, with major outlets such as NPR clamoring for interviews.