Latest Stories

Bishop Cruz calls for stop to ivory use


Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz

Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz called on the public to refrain from using ivory tusks for religious images.

Cruz said the use of ivory tusks for religious images should be stopped “because it is contrary to the signs of the times.”

“Elephants are already endangered and that reason itself dictates that we get rid of ivory. There are better materials like kamagong, iron, wood, molave. Besides, the moment you have ivory in an image, you’re courting danger because they are attractive to thieves and they are saleable,” Cruz said in an interview.

Cruz added, though, that  he didn’t know of any Church law expressly banning the use of ivory for religious images.

Dangerous to Church

For activist priest Robert Reyes, turning religious icons and altars into kingly material possessions is dangerous to the Church.

“Sacred images are important symbols but they need not be of gold or ivory,” Reyes said in a statement sent to the Inquirer, in reaction to reports on the Philippines’ involvement in the illegal trade of ivory from elephant tusks to transform them into holy images.

He said what made the religious icons sacred was “our faith not the value of the material of which they are made.”

Cruz admitted that he himself had put up two museums—one in San Fernando, Pampanga and another in Dagupan—where religious images made of ivory were stored.

“There was a time when ivory was freely marketed because there were no worries about the elephants being endangered at that time. The marketing of ivory in those times was not an issue. But this time it’s different,” he added.

“Is this priest [Msgr. Cristobal Garcia] guilty of ivory smuggling, I don’t know. What I know is that even former First Lady Imelda Marcos was very fond of collecting ivory images. It’s true that there used to be lots of ivory and they were used for religious images but that was when there was still no prohibition on trading and the elephants were not endangered yet,” he said.

“I don’t want to comment on what sin he [Garcia] committed. I just want to say that it’s improper if you’ll trade ivory nowadays, we should no longer be making new images out of ivory tusks. But if you collect existing images because you worry that they may be lost or taken away by thieves, that’s OK because I did that myself,” he added.

Reyes assailed the priest named in the NatGeo report who tried to rationalize the Church’s use of illegally traded ivory.

Fr. Vicente Lina Jr., director of the Diocesan Museum of Malolos and curator of his archdiocese’s annual Sto. Niño exhibit, was quoted as saying in the report that icons carved from ivory was a form of “offering to God.”

Crooked line

“It’s straightening up a crooked line: You buy the ivory, which came from a hazy origin, and you turn it into a spiritual item. See?” Lina told NatGeo.

“His voice lowers to a whisper.  ‘Because it’s like buying a stolen item,’” the report said.

Popularly known as the “running priest” for his passion on initiating marathons to raise public awareness about social and political issues, Reyes said the justifications of the priests in the article were “disturbing.”

“I wonder whether we can proudly say, ‘we don’t have elephants in the Philippines but we have elephant tusks turned into sacred objects of worship,’” he said. With a report from Delfin T. Mallari Jr., Inquirer Southern Luzon

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: animals , Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz , Conservation , DENR , Elephants , Environment , Global Nation , Ivory Smuggling , Msgr. Cristobal Garcia , National Geographic , Philippines , Religion

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


  • DOH asks co-passengers of OFW carrier to test for MERS-CoV
  • ‘Shouldn’t we move?’ Ferry evacuation under scrutiny
  • 5.5-magnitude quake hits Sultan Kudarat
  • Passengers denied chance to escape sinking South Korea ferry
  • Firetruck rams California eatery; 15 injured
  • Sports

  • PH youth boxers off to stumbling start in AIBA World tilt
  • Durant has 42, Thunder beat Pistons 112-111
  • Walker leads Bobcats over Bulls in OT, 91-86
  • Man City slips further out of title contention
  • Federer would skip tennis to be with wife, newborn
  • Lifestyle

  • Pro visual artists, lensmen to judge Pagcor’s photo contest
  • ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  • This is not just a farm
  • Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  • Moist, extra-tender blueberry muffins
  • Entertainment

  • Will Arnett files for divorce from Amy Poehler
  • American rapper cuts own penis, jumps off building
  • Jay Z to bring Made in America music fest to LA
  • Why Lucky has not bought an engagement ring for Angel
  • Derek more private with new girlfriend
  • Business

  • Asia stocks fail to match Wall Street gains
  • Fired Yahoo exec gets $58M for 15 months of work
  • PH presses bid to keep rice import controls
  • PSEi continues to gain
  • Number of retrenched workers rose by 42% in ’13
  • Technology

  • DOF: Tagaytay, QC best at handling funds
  • Smart phone apps and sites perfect for the Holy Week
  • Tech company: Change passwords or suffer ‘Heartbleed’
  • Filling the digital talent gap
  • SSS to shut down website for Holy Week
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • Syria most dangerous country for journalists, PH 3rd—watchdog
  • Japan says visa-free entry still a plan
  • First Fil-Am elected to Sierra Madre, Calif. city council
  • UC Irvine cultural night to dramatize clash of values in immigrant family
  • Filipino sweets and info served at UC Berkeley Spring Fest
  • Marketplace