CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 11 November 2017

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A lavish funeral for a simple priest

CEBU (SE): Although the police in Cebu City had made what they described as adequate security arrangements to accommodate around 5,000 to 10,000 people anticipated to attend the funeral Mass of the late Ricardo Cardinal Vidal scheduled to take place at 8.00am on October 26, the estimated 55,000 that turned up even took Church officials by surprise.
 
The transport authority made the emergency move of waiving the required permit for six extra  buses to be put into service to ferry people to the cathedral to pray for the deceased former archbishop of Cebu and hear him eulogised as a great advocate of peace.
 
The living three Filipino cardinals; the archbishop of Manila, Luis Cardinal Tagle; his predecessor, Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales; and the archbishop of Cotabato, Orlando Cardinal Quevedo; as well as over 300 priests and bishops, gathered around Archbishop José Palma as the packed cathedral and courtyard heard Bishop Dennis Villarojo say that the late cardinal had a great gift for peace-making.
 
His former secretary and now the auxiliary of the diocese said that his old boss always advised people, and especially his priests, not to allow prejudice to cloud their judgement, as those who disagree with you are not necessarily your enemies and could end up being your greatest friends and closest collaborators.
 
“What we do not understand, we fear; what we fear, we consider our enemy,” Bishop Villarojo quoted the late cardinal as saying often, describing his words as being a valuable formula for peace.
 
He added that the cardinal lived by this dictum, often at great cost to himself, as he would stand his ground, even to the point of being misunderstood.
 
“The moral high ground you took enabled you to broker a peace among worrying factions knowing that some of our quarrels are not really based on principles, but on personalities,” Bishop Villarojo said in addressing the coffin of the late cardinal.
 
Bishop Ruperto Santos mourned him as a thoughtful shepherd and courageous prophet, especially during the years of martial law under Ferdinand Marcos and prior to People Power in 1986, when he took on the mammoth task of galvanising a normally splintered bishops’ conference into standing together with the people massed in the streets.
 
In 1989, he also responded to a request from the president of the moment, Cory Aquino, to petition a general, José Comendador, who was known to be friendly towards rebel forces fighting against her government, to surrender peacefully.
 
By doing so he helped avoid what could have well become another moment of blood-soaked Philippine history.
 
Again in 2001 he was in the limelight, this time in convincing the president of the time, Joseph Estrada, to step down. He later put pressure on Estrada’s successor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, to pardon her predecessor in the spirit of national unity. This she did in 2007.
 
Cardinal Vidal received recognition from the Senate in 2007 in the following words, “It is resolved by the Senate, to honour Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, archbishop of Cebu, for his service to the people of Cebu, providing spiritual leadership and inspiration, helping the community avert or survive several crises and conflicts, often acting as a peacekeeper and giving the voice of moderation amid clashing views and interests in local and national issues.”
 
His services to the country for bringing peace to often hostile environments were also recognised by the lower house of the congress and the Order of Lapu-Lapu, the highest honour the city of Cebu can bestow, was awarded to the boy from Marinduque officially making him a son of the city.
 
Then in March 2009, the University of the Visayas conferred an honorary doctorate in humanities upon him.
 
At the end of the funeral Mass, Cardinal Vidal’s remains were placed on a 100-year-old carroza for the funeral procession around the cathedral before the man born Ricardo Tito Jamin Vidal was buried alongside his predecessor in the diocese, Julio Cardinal Rosales.
 
It was the wish of the family that he lie at rest in the archdiocese he served so well and for so long, rather than his birthplace in Marinduque.
 
A niece, Karen Vidal, was quoted by Rappler.com as saying, “Our hearts are grateful for the love that you gave my uncle. Our family will forever be thankful to the Cebuanos.”
 
He died in a Cebu hospital on October 18 after falling into a coma during which he gave up his spirit to the Lord. An honoured son of the Pearl of the Orient Seas had breathed his last.
 
It was indeed a lavish funeral for a cardinal archbishop who at heart always remained just a simple priest.
 
May he rest in peace.

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