Cruz to ban Lozada in mass

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — ARCHBISHOP Oscar Cruz, an outspoken critic of the government, yesterday said he supports the campaign spearheaded by whistle-blower Rodolfo Lozada Jr. to get to the bottom of a lingering bribery scandal, but said he must do it outside the church.

“The church is a sacred place and so is the mass. It is only proper that these should not be mixed with politics,” Cruz said.

Cruz, a former president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, said he supported Nueva Caceres Archbishop Leonardo Legaspi, who ordered priests in his archdiocese to refrain from saying mass for Lozada and to keep the religious rite from being used for political purposes.

Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, who was accused by the Black and White Movement of doing the same thing, was denounced by the civil society group as “a congressman in a cassock.”

Vidal, speaking through a spokesman, yesterday denied issuing any order, and said the Black and White Movement should be treated with kindness.

“Let us try to behave as Jesusdid, very gently towards Judas who betrayed him,” said Msgr. Archilles Dacay, Vidal’s spokesman.

But Cruz said his support for Lozada remained firm.

“I will always be on his side as, like most of us, I also want the truth to come out about the controversies and various corruption scandals involving public officials under the Arroyo government,” he said.

But he made it clear that those looking for truth should spare the church.

“Any priest can still celebrate mass inside the church with Lozada, but the priest should make sure that it is purely religious,” Cruz said.

He said using the church as a venue for political speeches, as Lozada had done, would violate the sanctity of the mass.

Former President Corazon Aquino, a Lozada supporter, has also been making political speeches and called for President Arroyo’s resignation after one mass.

Another critic of the Arroyo administration, Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, said in separate interview that he was not against any priest celebrating mass with Lozada in attendance.

The “Truth Caravan” being spearheaded by Lozada would continue despite growing opposition from some Catholic bishops, a religious group that supports Lozada said.

Officials of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines said they would continue to support Lozada’s tour of schools across the country to make more people aware of the corruption scandal rocking the Arroyo administration.

Executive Secretary Estrella Castalone added that her group would continue to give sanctuary and support to Lozada.

She expressed dismay that not all bishops supported the whistle-blower’s campaign.

“I really cannot understand it and I do want to think deeply about it because I do know what will come into my mind. It is just saddening,” Castalone said.

She added: “The church is the not one sector, the church is not only the bishop; we are the church, you are the church.”