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Church groups honour indefatigable champion of the poor

MANILA (UCAN): Sister Crescencia “Cres” Lucero of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, suffered a stroke while attending a meeting on human rights in Jakarta, Indonesia. She underwent an operation for cerebral haemorrhage on May 9, but eventually died on May 15. She was 77-years-old.
 
“The history of human rights in the Philippines can never be written without the name of Sister Cres,” said Father Christian Buenafe of the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, as Church and advocacy groups in the country paid tribute to the sister who spent her life working for the defense of human rights, especially for the poor.  
 
Together with Father Buenafe, Sister Lucero headed the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, under the auspices of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines, from 2009 until the time of her death.
 
She also headed the association’s Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation ministry at the time of her death.
 
“There were things that you could not negotiate with her, things like peace, social justice, right to life and the environment,” Father Buenafe said. 
 
Against the advice of her doctors “to slow down” the sister continued “to commit to the building of the Church of the poor,” he said.
 
Following the launch of the Philippine government’s bloody, so-called war against drugs in 2016, Sister Lucero would stay awake all night to monitor and visit places where suspected drug users were killed.
 
Franciscan Father Dexter Toledo, recounted that Sister Lucero had also “effectively integrated the call for peace and the protection of human rights to the fight for the protection of the environment.”
 
He said, “She knew that peace is integral to our relationship with the environment, and peace cannot be achieved without protecting the rights of nature and rights of the people.” 
 
Sister Lucero “faithfully performed the duties of a true Franciscan and a true Christian,” he said.
 
Yolanda Esguerra of the Philippine-Misereor Partnership Inc., described the sister as “an icon of peace and a tireless human rights defender since the 1970s.”
 
Redemptorist Father Oliver Castor, spokesperson of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, called Sister Lucero a “trailblazer” in human rights work and peace building.
 
“She kept the torch burning and sacrificed herself not simply to a higher cause but to God,” he said, adding that she “opened the gates of the Church” to people who needed sanctuary.
 
Father Castor said that during the Martial Law years in the 1980s, Sister Lucero was “one of the sisters who kept us safe from state fascism and gave us safe haven.”
 
He recalled, “(She) used her veil to serve the poor and defend the victims of human rights violations during those dark years up to her last days.” 
 
Karen Tanada of the non-government organisation, Gaston Z. Ortigas Peace Institute, said Sister Lucero was “always visible” in promoting peace and human rights.
 
“She belonged to many organisations because she wanted to exhaust every possible avenue to further peace-building and make the country a better place for us,” she said.
 
Benedictine Sister Mary John Mananzan called Sister Lucero “an indefatigable advocate for human rights, for justice and peace issues.”
 
She said the late sister was a “silent-type woman who had a soft heart for the oppressed, but was fervent in her stand against tyranny.”

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