Archbishop Oscar Cruz, former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines and retired prelate of Lingayen-Dagupan, died on Wednesday, August 26, at the age of 85.
“It is with profound sorrow that we inform you of the demise of [Archbishop Cruz] … due to a lingering illness,” read a CBCP statement.
The prelate was rushed to a hospital in Manila two weeks ago due to his “deteriorating” health after he got pneumonia in 2017.
Born on Nov. 17, 1934, Balanga, Bataan province, Archbishop Cruz finished his philosophy and theology studies at the Pontifical University of Santo Tomas.
He obtained his Doctorate in Canon Law at the Lateran University in Rome.
He was ordained priest in 1962 and became bishop in 1976. He was the first Filipino rector of San Carlos Seminary in the Archdiocese of Manila.
He was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Manila on March 4, 1976, and then Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan on July 5, 1991.
He took an active role in convening the historic Second Plenary Council of the Philippines in 1991.
He served as a judicial vicar of the National Tribunal of Appeals of the bishops’ conference and director of the CBCP’s legal office.
Archbishop Cruz was known for his relentless campaign against illegal gambling, particularly the illegal numbers game “jueteng” in the country.
To advance his crusade, he founded the “Krusada ng Bayan Laban sa Jueteng” or “People’s Crusade Against Jueteng” in 2004.
The prelate claimed that “jueteng” continues to operate because of “protection money” given to the the police and politicians.
He was a critic of the government-run small town lottery that he described as a “cover-up” for “jueteng.”
Archbishop Cruz published several books during his lifetime, including the “CBCP Guidelines on Sexual Abuse and Misconduct: A Critique, and Call of the Laity.”
Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan described the late archbishop “as one of the leading canon lawyers of the Church in the Philippines.”
“He has been one of the leading voices in the advocacy against illegal gambling in the country,” said Bishop David.
“We lost a brilliant man and a dedicated pastor,” said Father Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of CBCP’s Permanent Committee on Public affairs.
“His love for the Church and our country was unflinching. His candor and wise counsel far surpass his flaws. He died with his integrity intact,” said the priest.
Archbishop Cruz’s remains will be brought to the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist in Dagupan City where the Catholic faithful can pay their respects starting August 27.
A funeral Mass will be held on August 28, Friday, at nine o’clock in the morning at the Saint John the Evangelist Cathedral where his remains will be laid to rest.
Due to prevailing health protocols because of the coronavirus pandemic, only priests and bishops and the late archbishop’s family will be allowed to attend the funeral Mass.