The Grand Finial

September 29, 1990

President Theodore Roosevelt laid the cornerstone in 1907. Now it is 1990, and President George Bush will be on hand at noon today, watching the placement of the last stone, the cross-shaped grand finial, high up in the southwest corner of the St. Paul Tower. It is a true English Gothic cathedral, being built entirely (which is unheard of) in one century. And it is the real thing, all stone and mortar, no steel. What you see is what holds it up.

Congratulations to the Protestant Episcopal diocese of Washington for completing its Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul. More familiarly known as the National Cathedral, it is one of the great church buildings -- the sixth tallest -- in the world. It's nice to know that some things begun in the nation's capital actually get done.

The result is not self-effacing. Washington's National Cathedral is the second largest in the United States, after New York's St. John's. It sits on a hill higher than Capitol Hill. Its central tower rises above the Washington Monument (the one in Washington). It honors such secular Americans as Lincoln, Harriet Tubman and Stonewall Jackson. One of its stones is from the moon. Martin Luther King Jr. preached his last sermon there. Woodrow Wilson was buried there.

This newspaper yields to none in its devotion to separation of church and state. But we savor the words of the late Bishop John T. Walker, the prelate who raised the final millions but did not see his work's completion. He said the cathedral is "a place where continuous prayer is made for a society that neither understands its need for prayer nor cares that it is being prayed for." May its stewards carry on that good work in perpetuity.

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