Review of old case puzzles cardinal

CEBU CITY –- The child abuse case in the United States against a high-ranking Cebu Church official had been resolved more than 20 years ago, said Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal.

The cardinal, who arrived in Manila last Saturday night, met and talked with Msgr. Cristobal Garcia last week.

“Ok naman siya (He’s ok). I told him, ‘Just suffer a little. The damage has been done. The Lord will restore everything’,” Cardinal Vidal said.

He added that he has all the documents pertaining to the transfer of Msgr. Garcia from the Dominican congregation in the United States to the Archdiocese of Cebu.

The ongoing investigation by the Holy See or the office of Pope Benedict XVI on the same case puzzles Cardinal Vidal, who added that media reports seem to portray that the Church “has done nothing” about Garcia’s case.

“I have already institutionalized his incardination 20 years ago,” Cardinal Vidal told Sun.Star Cebu. He added that the Dominican superior at that time was happy that Garcia was accepted in the archdiocese.

Priestly faculties

He referred to the process Garcia underwent of leaving the Dominican congregation in the United States and being accepted in the Archdiocese of Cebu.

“He (Garcia) was given back all his priestly faculties. He underwent a program under (the late) Archbishop Manuel Salvador who was a canon lawyer,” Vidal said, after giving a speech at the Indiana Aerospace University’s Saint Therese of Lisieux chapel in Lapu-Lapu City on Sunday.

Archbishop Salvador was a co-adjutor Archbishop of Cebu in the early 1970s.

“On this day of Saint Therese, we are reminded once again of spiritual childhood. During the time of Saint Therese, the elevator was just invented and she used it as reference to get to heaven as fast as she could,” said Cardinal Vidal during the school’s foundation anniversary.

What prompted it?

University chairman Jovenal Toring gave Cardinal Vidal a replica of the RPC 50 airplane used during the fluvial procession of the Sinulog celebration, as a token of appreciation for supporting a scholarship program for poor but deserving students.

The 81-year-old prelate, who served as Cebu’s archbishop for almost three decades, said he does not know why Garcia’s old case is being reviewed by the Holy See. He added that he does not know what triggered the probe.

Garcia was ordained a Dominican priest by Vidal’s predecessor, the late Julio Cardinal Rosales. He was then incardinated by Vidal and later given the title monsignori then appointed Archdiocesan Commission on Worship chairman.

He was relieved of all his official functions in the Archdiocese of Cebu by Archbishop Jose Palma earlier this year, to heed an instruction from the Holy See.

Msgr. Cris, as he is popularly known, also used to be the business manager of the archdiocesan newsletter Ang Bag-ong Lungsoranon, in-charge of the publication Mag-ambahan Kita and spiritual director of World of Fatima and Bukas Loob sa Diyos communities.

Track record

He is known as a collector of religious artifacts made from various materials such as ivory, silver, porcelain and even one Nativity scene made from candy wrappers. These items are usually on display during the Lenten season or other religious occasions at the Archdiocesan Shrine of the Black Nazarene in Cansojong, Talisay City or in malls and museums in Cebu City.

Garcia also founded the Society of the Angels of Peace (SAP), which is a religious congregation of priests, brothers and nuns dedicated to assisting in liturgical services in parishes.

Canon lawyer Msgr. Raul Go earlier explained that Garcia is on administrative leave, pending the investigation by Vatican officials.

Vidal said he was saddened by the news on Garcia and he encourages those who want to show their support to come out and do so.

Loudette Montinola-Salanga sent an email to Sun.Star Cebu introducing herself as the daughter of Mon and Baby Montinola, who earlier expressed their support for Garcia.

“In January 2002, my husband and I had the honor of having you (Monsignor Garcia) officiate during our wedding in Cebu. Our family has always known you to be a good and kind priest, and we always found your sermons to be thoughtful and effective. Our prayers and support are with you during these trying times. May the Lord always be with you!” she said. (BAP of Sun.Star Cebu)

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