“Church workers, officials attest to monsignor’s piety, generosity” & and related articles

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Cebu Sun Star

Friday, September 28, 2012

By Bernadette A. Parco

A GOOD friend, generous and dedicated to the promotion of the faith—these were the words that some priests and church workers use to describe Msgr. Cristobal Garcia, who is facing an investigation by the Vatican in relation to a 20-year-old sexual abuse case.

“Cris provides a sense of continuity to deeply cherished religious traditions. His deep commitment to Sinulog, for instance, was a positive factor to the celebrations,” said Fr. Carmelo Diola, Dilaab Foundation Inc. overall steward.

Diola said it was Garcia who was behind the creation of a website for the Friends of Pedro Foundation Inc. in 2000, leading to the formation of Dilaab in 2007.

“He is a good friend who is ready to help,” he added.

Garcia, former Archdiocesan Commission on Worship chairman and founder of the Society of the Angels of Peace (SAP), was suspended by Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma upon the directive of the Holy See, which is investigating a more than two decades’ old accusation that he had sexual relations with two altar boys in the United States.

In Cebu, Garcia is known for his expertise on liturgical services and collection of religious images. His collection of ivory, silver and porcelain religious statues have been displayed in several Lenten exhibits.


Canon lawyer Msgr. Raul Go said Garcia, in secular terms, is under an administrative leave because of the ongoing investigation.

He cited the late Pope John Paul II’s apostolic letter on norms concerning more grave offenses. “If he is not in Cebu, it is not a punishment. It is part of a procedure, and Archbishop Palma had to implement it,” Go told Sun.Star Cebu.

“It is supposed to be temporary. The process is ongoing and there is no judgment yet from Rome,” he said.

Go said cases like the one Garcia is involved in have a prescription of 10 years, or can no longer be acted on after the victim turns 18 years old.


Archdiocesan Commission on Cultural Heritage of the Church chairman Msgr. Carlito Pono said Garcia’s suspension is a loss to the archdiocese, citing his (Garcia’s) contribution to the updating of the church liturgy.

Fr. Dodong Desuyo, the parish priest of Our Lady of Remedies parish church in Barangay Odlot, Bogo City, said that Garcia “is a mentor in liturgy … a person with extra-large heart for others.”

Candle vendors remember Garcia as the prayer leader during the Sinulog procession.

Fr. Jonald Concha invites others to pray “for his health and this ordeal.”

The only parish in Cebu named after the first Visayan martyr Blessed Pedro Calungsod was approved by Msgr. Garcia, said its parish priest Fr. Russell Sungcad.

“He also gave us the first image of Beato Pedro, a replica of the image brought to Rome during his beatification last March 2000,” Sungcad said.


Charismatic group rallies behind sacked ‘ivory’ priest

The Inquirer ({Philippines)


6:07 am | Friday, September 28th, 2012

Msgr. Cristobal Garcia

CEBU CITY—Embattled Msgr. Cristobal Garcia can find strength in a Catholic charismatic group that has been under his spiritual guidance for the last 20 years.

Members of the Bukas Loob sa Diyos (BLD) have been holding vigils and synchronized prayer brigades for Garcia since Wednesday after the monsignor has been linked to the illegal smuggling of ivory by the National Geographic magazine October cover story “Ivory Worship.”

The vigils and prayers at the Vicente Sotto School of Nursing building on Osmeña Boulevard here would continue even after the BLD members have been informed of the reason behind Garcia’s removal as their spiritual director.

Garcia was suspended and stripped of his positions at the Cebu Archdiocese on orders of the Vatican pending the Holy See’s investigation of charges of child abuse for allegedly molesting two altar boys in the United States 20 years ago.

These posts include: chairmanship in the Committee on Worship; business manager of Bag-ong Lungsoranon, the official publication of the Cebu Archdiocese; and spiritual director of BLD and the World Apostolate of Fatima.


Santiago “Sonny” Academia, BLD district servant leader, said they were shocked when they read about Garcia’s suspension in the newspapers Thursday.

Academia told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a phone interview that the charges did not matter to them because Garcia had been a “faithful servant” to the group.

“Everybody has a past. Everybody has an option to renew one’s life for the better,” said Academia, who is shepherding five districts—Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental, Tagbilaran City in Bohol, Ormoc City in Leyte, Cebu City and Cagayan de Oro City.

Academia said they were holding vigils and prayer brigades for Garcia so he would be given strength to whether the trials he is currently facing. They were also seeking for “for God’s intervention and divine justice,” he added.

Academia said Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma informed them through a letter read in the church on July 3 that Garcia had been replaced by Fr. Mon Obredo as their spiritual director.

He said the letter did not indicate why Garcia was relieved of the position that the monsignor held for 20 years.

However, Garcia said they did not question the decision since “we are subservient to the bigger church.”

Garcia was embroiled in the illegal trade of ivory controversy after he allegedly gave National Geographic writer Bryan Christy the names of his favorite ivory carvers, all in Manila, along with the advice on whom to go for high volume. Christy also claimed that Garcia gave him their phone numbers and locations.

On Wednesday, the Cebu Archdiocese announced that Garcia was suspended by Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma in June on instructions of the Vatican because of the ongoing investigation of the child abuse case filed against him.

Msgr. Achilles Dakay, Cebu Archdiocese media liaison officer, clarified that Garcia’s suspension came long before the monsignor was implicated in the illegal ivory trade.

Garcia, however, can count on the support of BLD members.

“Personally, between 1,000 accusations and one word of Monsignor Cris, I still believe in Monsignor Cris,” Academia said.


Vatican sacks Cebu priest months ahead of ivory scandal, says church exec

Ivory priest probed in US sex abuse case

Global Nation Inquirer

12:04 am | Thursday, September 27th, 2012



ARCHBISHOP MEETS THE PRESS Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma (left) answers questions from reporters on Wednesday on Msgr. Cristobal Garcia’s collection of ivory religious icons and his whereabouts. JUNJIE MENDOZA/CEBU DAILY NEWS

CEBU CITY—Msgr. Cristobal Garcia has been suspended and stripped of all his positions in the Archdiocese of Cebu on orders of the Vatican while the Holy See investigates the child abuse case that stemmed from accusations that he molested altar boys more than 20 years ago in the United States.

Msgr. Achilles Dakay, Cebu archdiocese media liaison officer,  said Garcia’s suspension happened months before the monsignor was implicated by a National Geographic article on the illegal trade of ivory in the Philippines.

Dakay’s announcement came after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said that Garcia could face up to four years in prison unless he could show proof that he legally acquired his huge collection of religious icons made of ivory.

The National Bureau of Investigation said it was gathering evidence against those involved in the illegal sale of ivory, which an environmentalist lawyer calls the “new blood diamond” in the international trade.

NatGeo said the demand for ivory in the Philippines has resulted in thousands of deaths of African elephants.

Dakay said Garcia was suspended by Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma in June on instructions of the Vatican because of the ongoing investigation of the child abuse case filed against him.

As part of the penalties, Garcia is not allowed to say Mass in public and hear confessions, and  has been stripped of his positions in the archdiocese, including his chairmanship of the committee on worship.

Palma, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, had informed Garcia about his suspension, which might have affected the latter’s health, Dakay said.

Diabetic, hypertensive

Garcia, a diabetic and hypertensive, is on sick leave. He was confined at a private hospital in Manila. Before that, he had been staying with a sibling in Manila while he sought medical treatment.

At a news conference at the Archbishop’s Palace here on Wednesday morning, Palma confirmed Dakay’s statement that Garcia had been removed from his positions in the archdiocese.

“You might notice you have not seen Monsignor Cris since June because he’s out of Cebu,” Palma said. “He is no longer connected with any of the post he occupied before.”

Palma said the investigation of Garcia’s child abuse case came long before the monsignor was embroiled in the controversy involving ivory trade.

“With regard to the matter of Monsignor Garcia’s past, the case has been elevated to the Holy See and it has initiated the investigation into it long before the present controversy erupted,” Palma said  in a prepared statement.

“I have also fulfilled the Holy See’s instructions regarding the submission of documents and acting upon related consequences,” he added.

Garcia was a Dominican priest working in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in the 1980s when he was accused of child abuse.

He was later expelled after a nun reported to the police that an altar boy had been found in his bed in a Los Angeles rectory.

An article by The Los Angeles Times reported that Garcia was accused of molesting two youths in 1980 and 1984.

In a Dallas Morning News interview, Garcia was quoted as saying that he did have sex with the two altar boys but claimed that he was the one who was “seduced and raped.” His accusers, however, found his claims absurd.

Rosales brought him back

Garcia also claimed that his reputation had been tarnished because of his family’s wealth and that a cardinal had given him clemency after a review of a psychological report on him and materials from the Dominicans.

Dakay told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that what he knew was that Garcia was the last priest ordained by Cebu Archbishop Julio Cardinal Rosales before he died in the 1980s.

After Garcia was expelled by the Dominican Order, Dakay said Rosales brought him back to his hometown in Cebu and took him in the archdiocese as a diocesan priest.

But Dakay said Garcia could no longer go back to the United States after his conviction in the civil aspect of the case. He, however, didn’t know if Garcia was ordered to pay damages.

Garcia made monsignor

It was during the time of Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, Rosales’ successor, that Garcia was named monsignor.

Garcia later became a high-profile priest in Cebu and has been known for his vast collections of religious icons, including Sto. Niño made of ivory, and paintings. His collections are usually displayed on exhibit every January as part of the festivities leading to the annual fiesta of Cebu’s patron, Señor Sto. Niño.

Publication manager

Garcia was also given various positions, including the chairmanship of the Commission on Worship. He was also business manager of “Bag-ong Lungsoranon,” the official publication of the Cebu archdiocese and spiritual director of Bukas Loob ng Dios and the World Apostolate of Fatima.

He was also a founder of the Society of the Angel of Peace in Talisay City, and rector of the Archdiocesan Shrine of Jesus Nazareno, also in Talisay.

Dakay said he thought the child abuse case against Garcia had been considered closed until Palma was informed by the Vatican about an ongoing investigation.

Sin, crime

“He must have repented and was sorry for what he did because it was a sin. But the crime remained. The Vatican went on investigating it,” Dakay said.

“What happened in the States could be a crime. If it was also a sin on his part, it was forgiven. He had repented,”  Dakay said.

But he added the criminal case was elevated to the Vatican and was now the subject of an ongoing investigation.

Dakay said he didn’t know when the case was revived. “I don’t know why it reached the Vatican as a Church case.”

“We have been communicating with the Vatican. We didn’t know that there was an investigation. We didn’t know that it was revived,” he said.

‘Soften’ penalties

Dakay said Palma was appealing to the Vatican to soften the penalties on Garcia apparently due to the monsignor’s health condition and his contribution to the archdiocese.

Garcia left for Manila several weeks ago to seek medical treatment. He had been in and out of the hospital because of  hypertension and a heart ailment.

Dakay said some Cebu priests saw Garcia in Makati City last week with his bodyguard and private nurse, “looking very sick.”

“He is now in hospital,” he added.

Dakay said Garcia, an expert in liturgy, had been printing the prayers of the archdiocese.

How to smuggle ivory

In his article titled “Ivory Worship” in NatGeo’s October issue, Bryan Christy, who visited the Philippines five times for the story, said Garcia advised him on how to smuggle religious icons made of ivory to the United States.

“‘Wrap it in old, stinky underwear and pour ketchup on it … so it looks shitty with blood. This is how it is done,’” Garcia told Christy.

Christy said Garcia also gave him the “names of his favorite ivory carvers, all in Manila, along with advice on whom to go to for high volume, whose wife overcharges, who doesn’t meet deadlines. He gave me phone numbers and locations.”

“If I wanted to smuggle an icon that was too large to hide in my suitcase, I might get a certificate from the National Museum of the Philippines declaring my image to be antique, or I could get a carver to issue a paper declaring it to be imitation or alter the carving date to before the ivory ban. Whatever I decided to commission, Garcia promised to bless it for me,” Christy said of Garcia’s advice to him.

Christy said that “a few families control most of the ivory carving in Manila, moving like termites through massive quantities of tusks. Two of the main dealers are based in the city’s religious-supplies district, Tayuman. During my five trips to the Philippines I visited every one of the ivory shops Garcia recommended to me and more, inquiring about buying ivory.”

Hide it in coffin

“More than once I was asked if I was a priest. In almost every shop someone proposed a way I could smuggle ivory to the US. One offered to paint my ivory with removable brown watercolor to resemble wood; another to make identical hand-painted statuettes out of resin to camouflage my ivory baby Jesus. If I was caught, I was told to lie and say  ‘resin’ to US customs. During one visit a dealer said Monsignor Garcia had just called and suggested that since I’d mentioned that my family had a funeral business, I might take her new, 20-pound Sto. Niño home by hiding it in the bottom of a casket. I said he must have been joking, but she didn’t think so,” Christy said.

1 Response to “Church workers, officials attest to monsignor’s piety, generosity” & and related articles

  1. Sylvia says:

    I don’t understand this.  Canon lawyer Msgr. Raul Go is quoted as saying that if Monsiginor Garcia is not in Ceub it is not a punishment:

    “If he is not in Cebu, it is not a punishment. It is part of a procedure, and Archbishop Palma had to implement it,

    Garcia is not, according to reports, in Cebu,  And according to reports, Garcia has been stripped of his faculties and all duties in the archdiocese.  How does this relate in any way shape or form to whether Garcia is in Cebu or Milan?  I don’t understand.  I could understand if Go said that the suspension and so on is not punishment but  part of a procedure – I just don’t understand how he concludes that none of this is punishment because Garcia is not in Cebu?  Am I misreading something, or looking at the wrong way?

    All of that aside, read and weep.  Seems a lot of Catholics in the Philippines – Catholic and lay – have their heads firmly buried in the sand.  Lots of hearts and flowers for this child molester priest who high-tailed it  out of the States and ran for home when he was caught and exposed for what he is.

    What about the children?  Do these people for one moment ponder the well-being of the all those children who have at any time been in the company of this man since his return to the Philippines over 20 years ago?

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