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Posted at 12:54 PM ET, 11/13/2011

National Cathedral reopens to public

The Washington National Cathedral reopened to the general public Sunday for the first time since the building was damaged in the August earthquake.

More than 2,000 worshippers gathered—black netting strung over their heads to guard against any falling stone chips— to hear the first sermon by the newly installed bishop of the Episcopal diocese of Washington, Rev. Dr. Mariann Edgar Budde.

Budde, 51, was installed as the first female bishop of the diocese in a ceremony Saturday, taking over at a time when the Episcopal faith is losing members and its flagship cathedral has suffered financial woes.

“You have called me to serve alongside you at a decisive moment of opportunity and challenge for us,” Budde said. She was chosen in part because of her successful revitalization of a church in Minneapolis.

Cathedral officials expected more than 5,000 people to attend the weekend’s ceremonies, which kicked off a week of events to celebrate the cathedral’s reopening.

The building, which remains structurally sound, suffered major damage during the Aug. 23 earthquake, including to the cone-shaped pinnacles of its soaring central tower.

Cathedral officials showed off a new visitor’s entrance and exhibit dedicated to the earthquake Sunday. But along with bouquets of flowers, visible signs of the earthquake damage still remain, from the black netting to the two limestone pinnacles now sitting behind protective fencing in front of the main entrance.

The cathedral, which has struggled through layoffs and budget cuts in recent years, now must raise $15 million to repair the quake damage, which could take more than a decade to complete.

By  |  12:54 PM ET, 11/13/2011

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