ANTI-GAMBLING crusader Archbishop Oscar Cruz died on Wednesday.
Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said Cruz succumbed to “multiple organ failure” caused by “critical COVID-19 infection.”
Cruz passed away at 6:45 a.m. at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center in San Juan City. He was 85.
Cruz was the third Filipino prelate to contract the coronavirus after Bishop Broderick Pabillo, the apostolic administrator of the Manila archdiocese, and Caloocan Bishop Emeritus Deogracias Iniguez.
Following heath protocols, Villegas said Cruz’s remains will be cremated immediately and will be brought to the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist in Dagupan City.
Cruz served as archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan from 1991 until his retirement in 2009.
The faithful, Villegas said, may pay their respects to the late archbishop on Aug. 27 from 6 am until 8 pm.
He added masses will also be celebrated by the diocesan and religious clergy of the archdiocese the whole day.
The deceased prelate’s funeral Mass will take place at 9 am on Friday, Aug. 28 at the Saint John the Evangelist Cathedral. He will be laid to rest at the Santuario de San Juan Evangelista.
Villegas said that only the priests and bishops together with the archbishop’s family will be allowed to attend the funeral Mass in adherence to prevailing health protocols.
“We encourage the Catholic faithful to follow the liturgical rites on social media livestream,” he said.
Cruz was known for his relentless campaign against illegal gambling, particularly “jueteng.”
To advance his crusade, he founded the Krusada ng Bayan Laban sa Jueteng in 2004 that eventually transformed into a bigger anti-gambling advocacy.
Cruz claimed that jueteng continues to exist because of the big and regular payolas given to police authorities and politicians for protection.
He also criticized the government-run small town lottery (STL), which according to him, is just being used as a “cover-up” of jueteng.
Born in Balanga, Bataan in 1934, Cruz was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Manila in 1962.
In 1976, he was appointed auxiliary bishop of Manila and worked with Cardinal Jaime Sin until he was named archbishop of San Fernando in 1978.
In 1991, he was appointed archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan, a post he served for 18 years.
He also served as president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines from 1995 to 1999.
During his time as CBCP head, the bishops’ Office on Women was created and the offices on media, legal and research were operationalized.
It was also during his term that the CBCP released the following landmark statements:
Pastoral Exhortation on Philippine Economy in July 1998
Pastoral Exhortation on Philippine Politics in September 1998
Pastoral Exhortation on Philippine Culture in January 1999
Pastoral Exhortation on Filipino Spirituality in January 1999.
After his retirement at the age of 75, Cruz remained as judicial vicar of the CBCP National Appellate Tribunal of Appeals and director of the Legal Office.
In 2018, a bout of pneumonia weakened Cruz that he had to leave his remaining posts at the CBCP.
On August 10, his condition deteriorated that he was shifted to the hospital from the CBCP headquarters in Manila where he had been staying.
The late archbishop also wrote 54 books, including the CBCP Guidelines on Sexual Abuse and Misconduct: A Critique, and Call of the Laity.