Palma on ‘ivory trade’: Church respects creation

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

CEBU CITY (Updated 6:30 p.m.) -- Archbishop Jose Palma reacted to a report tagging a Cebu priest in the “ivory trade,” saying the Catholic Church does not condone killing of animals, particularly elephants, just to harvest their ivory tusks and carve these into religious items.

Cebu Archbishop Palma, who is also president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said the Catholic Church believes in giving due respect to creation.

“Of course, we are saddened by the news Cebu was identified as a source of the ivory trade,” Palma told Sun.Star Cebu.

He was referring to the National Geographic magazine article on “Blood Ivory” wherein the writer Bryan Christy had a lengthy interview with Msgr. Cristobal Garcia, the Archdiocesan Commission on Worship chairman.

Msgr. Garcia was described in the article as one of the best known ivory collectors in the country.

Palma lamented the involvement of Msgr. Garcia, saying the latter is on sick leave and is confined in a hospital in Manila.

The archbishop also said that he recently signed up with the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to transfer an elephant to Thailand from Manila Zoo where it can be provided with better care and treatment.

Palma is meeting the media on Wednesday, September 26, to deliver a statement on the issue.

Historian Trizer Mansueto said the article written by Christy is about elephant conservation.

“The ivory trade is bad. Elephants are killed just for their ivory tusks,” he added.

The National Geographic article states that thousands of elephants are butchered every year for their ivory tusks that are carved into religious objects, including the most-prized Sto. Niño (icon of Jesus Christ as a boy) in the Philippines.

The writer conducted an investigation of the direct link between religion and ivory smuggling shows.

At the time the story was published online, Msgr. Garcia had already been on leave from his posts in the archdiocese due to health reasons.

The worship commission post left by Garcia, who has been on leave for two months, is currently filled on an acting capacity by Fr. Glen Guanzon with Fr. Expedito Torrevillas.

Garcia's name no longer appears on the recent edition of Ang Bag-ong Lungsoranon, the official newsletter of the Cebu archdiocese where he used to sit as finance officer.

The worship commission leadership, a source said, would be handled by a young priest after the canonization rites of Blessed Pedro Calungsod next month.

In a separate interview, iconographer Louie Nacorda said he is not aware of the existence of an active ivory trade in Cebu.

“I don't what trade he (Christy) is talking about!” Nacorda said, adding that ivory images in Cebu come from Manila.

A collector of antiques and religious icons, Nacorda said he has not met anyone involved in selling ivory in Cebu except the traders in Manila.

Historian Trizer Mansueto said icons made of ivory are brought to Cebu from Manila.

“There was a time stealing of ivory icons in Cebu was rampant, that was in the 1980s and the 1990s,” he added.

He explained that the tradition of religious icons made of ivory came from India and China where gods and goddesses and Buddhist sculptures were made.

Mansueto said there are two factors that ivory is chosen as material, this is for its beauty and its durability that it lasts longer than wood. (BAP/Sun.Star Cebu)

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