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Retired Filipino archbishop dies of Covid-19

Philippine bishops mourn death of Archbishop Oscar V. Cruz of Lingayen-Dagupan at age 85

Retired Filipino archbishop dies of Covid-19

Archbishop Emeritus Archbishop Oscar V. Cruz of Lingayen-Dagupan has died at 85 in Manila. (Photo supplied)

Archbishop Emeritus Archbishop Oscar V. Cruz of Lingayen-Dagupan has died in a Manila hospital after losing a “lingering” battle with Covid-19, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has announced.

The 85-year-old retired archbishop and former CBCP president died on Aug. 26 of multiple organ failure caused by a critical Covid-19 infection at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center in San Juan City, the CBCP said.

Archbishop Cruz, who was also a leading canon lawyer, served as judicial vicar of the CBCP national tribunal after he retired in 2009. He obtained his doctorate in canon law at the Lateran University in Rome.

He was also a staunch critic of several Philippine presidents, speaking out against “structural” or “social sins.”

In a 2015 interview, the archbishop predicted that then-presidential aspirant Rodrigo Duterte would be “worse than a dictator” if elected.

“Such a creature is dangerous, much more if he is chosen as the Philippines’ head of state or leader,” he said in an interview.

Less than a month after Duterte’s election, Archbishop Cruz called Duterte “a fool” after promising to eradicate illegal drugs in “just six months.”

In 2014, he called former president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino “anti-Christian and unwise” for supporting a reproductive health law that legalized government procurement and distribution of contraceptives.

“His mother [former president Corazon Aquino] would receive a papal award. But here comes the son who is anti-Christian … He’s crossing thin ice ... irresponsible. He has a sense of omnipotence, arrogance,” Archbishop Cruz said in an interview.

The Catholic Church hierarchy was not even spared when the archbishop commented on the way his fellow bishops handled sexual abuse cases involving clergymen.

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In 2017, he spearheaded an investigation into priest Father Arnel Lagarejos, who was arrested for attempted sexual abuse when caught taking a 13-year-old girl to a Manila motel.

“As per experience, there are more cases of pedophilia. More of it,” Archbishop Cruz said in an interview.

His successor in Lingayen-Dagupan Archdiocese, Archbishop Socrates Villegas, described him as a faithful shepherd and courageous prophet.

“The world is poorer by his passing away. Heaven has a new jewel. My tears flow. My heart is grateful that in this lifetime I met a great churchman like Archbishop Oscar V. Cruz,” Archbishop Villegas told UCA News.

Retired Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes said Archbishop Cruz would be greatly missed.

“His outstanding qualities were recognized with his election as president of the CBCP for two terms and as president of the FABC [Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences], a large regional gathering of bishops, inaugurated by St. Pope Paul VI in 1970 in Manila. May Archbishop Cruz rest in peace,” Bishop Bastes told UCA News.

The CBCP said Archbishop Cruz was cremated and he would be laid to rest on Aug. 28 at St. John the Evangelist Cathedral in his former diocese in Lingayen-Dagupan in Pangasinan province, north of Manila.

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