Church shaken by ivory story

Posted on September 28, 2012



by Ador Vincent Mayol, Reporter



“Pray for strength.”

This was the appeal of a vicar of the Archdiocese of Cebu who said the National Geographic Magazine’s October 2012 cover story “Ivory Worship”  which implicated a high ranking priest has created a scandal.

“The Church in Cebu has been shaken but we shall stand firm with Christ,” said Msgr. Esteban Binghay,  episcopal vicar.

Binghay told Cebu Daily News  the local Church is  being tested wth the issues hounding Msgr. Cristobal Garcia who was suspended by the Vatican pending investigation of a child abuse case in the United States over 20 years ago and was linked to the illegal ivory trade by a National Geographic article.

He said the case against Garcia was a thing of the past and doesn’t reflect what  the monsignor has become.

Binghay said Garcia has improved the liturgy in Cebu especially with the founding of  the Society of the Angel of Peace, whose members assist bishops  and clergy in Eucharistic celebrations.

Garcia, who was replaced as chairman of  the Commission on Worship, wrote many of the prayers and liturgical guides in the archdiocese.

Yesterday, the National Bureau of Investigation in Central Visayas (NBI-7) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resouces in Central Visayas (DENR-7) met to t plan how to conduct a national probe on the allegations of illegal ivory trade.

Isabelo Montejo, DENR-7 executive director said they will request  to meet  Msgr. Garcia to shed light on the allegations but clarified that the inquiry won’t focus on Garcia alone; they will check other individuals and establishment that have ivory collections.

The priest was confined  in a hospital in Makati this week,  seeking medical treatment as he suffers  diabetes, hypertension, and a heart ailment.

He said they will tap the assistance of the National Museum of the Philippines to determine whether  ivory items  are antique or not.

He said it is hard to determine whether or not ivory collections were made before 1981 when the Philippines became a signatory to an international ban on ivory trade.

Lawyer Ronnie Silvestre, district collector of the Bureau of Customs in Cebu, said there is no ivory trade in Cebu.

“Even before the issue on the ivory trade came out, we’ve been monitoring items that endanger the environment,” he said.

Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma has discouraged the use of ivory following its ban and ordered the Archdiocesan commission on the cultural heritage of the Church to conduct an inventory of all the ivory collections of the archdiocese.

Garcia, through family members,  told the archbishop that  his statements in the  National Geographic  magazine story were  “misconstrued and exaggerated.”

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