Church Backs Ivory Ban; Fair Hearing for Bishop Sought

Article excerpt

ARCHBISHOP PALACE, Cebu City - The Catholic Church Wednesday expressed full support for the ban on ivory but sought a fair and just hearing for a bishop linked to alleged smuggling of ivory.

Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, in a press conference yesterday, stressed that the Catholic Church supports the ban on ivory as it is consistent with the doctrine on stewardship of creation, and the Church respects the laws of the land.

Ivory is considered a by-product or derivative from elephant tusk but its collection is one of the illegal acts identified in Republic Act 9147 or Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.

"The Church does not condone ivory smuggling or other illegal activities, although in the past, ivory was one of the materials used in the adornment of liturgical worship," he said.

"While these ivory artifacts crafted long before the ban are considered the cultural heritage of the Church, in no way does it encourage the use of ivory for new implements," Palma added.

Palma issued the statement in the wake of a National Geographic report tagging Msgr. Cristobal Garcia, who headed the Committee on Worship of the Archdiocese of Cebu prior to his sick leave, as one of the best known ivory collectors in the Philippines, who allegedly got some of his ivory collections illegally.

Bryan Christy, who wrote the article "Blood Ivory" in the upcoming October issue of National Geographic magazine, cited that Garcia shared with him how to get an ivory icon and how to smuggle it outside the country.

"He gave me phone numbers and locations. If I wanted to smuggle an icon that was too large to hide in my suitcase, I might get a certificate from the National Museum of the Philippines declaring my image to be antique, or I could get a carver to issue a paper declaring it to be imitation or alter the carving date to before the ivory ban," Christy narrated in his article, referring to his conversations with Garcia.

In the same article Christy described Garcia as a fleshy man with a lazy left eye and bad knees where in the mid-1980s, according to a 2005 report in the Dallas Morning News and a related lawsuit, Garcia, while serving as a priest at St. Dominic's of Los Angeles, California, sexually abused an altar boy in his early teens and was dismissed.

Moreover, Palma disclosed that the Church is willing to coordinate in resolving the matter concerning the alleged involvement of Garcia in the illegal ivory trade but emphasized that the person concerned should be given fair and just hearing. …