Peacemaker, friend: Cardinal Vidal, 86

RETIRED Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal passed away a week after he was admitted to a private hospital in Cebu City. He was 86.

He was the most senior of four Filipino cardinals and, after leading the Catholic Church in Cebu for nearly three decades, was a beloved and familiar part of the community’s memories.

“Salamat sa pag-alala ninyo sa aking kapatid. Salamat po sa pag-alaga sa kanya (Thank you for remembering my brother and for taking care of him),” said his youngest brother Juanito, who flew from Manila to Cebu after the cardinal’s hospital confinement began last Oct. 11. Cardinal Vidal was the fifth of sixth siblings; the brothers were very close.

Juanito recalled feeling lonely when Vidal was first assigned to Cebu, but his older brother told him he had to go “where God tells me to.”

Cardinal Vidal stayed in Cebu for nearly half his life, serving as archbishop from 1982 to January 2011 and retiring just a month shy of his 80th birthday. In all those years, he earned a reputation for being a peacemaker, for the calm and cheerful way he steered his flock through a variety of crises.

Although he was semi-comatose after being brought in for nausea and shortness of breath last week, the cardinal’s health briefly rallied, and there was hope he would recover.

Msgr. Joseph Tan, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Cebu, said that the cardinal recuperating in the Perpetual Succour Hospital’s intensive care unit when his heart rate monitor suddenly flat-lined around 6 a.m. Wednesday.

Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma and his team immediately went to the hospital to check on Cardinal Vidal’s condition. The cardinal passed away at 7:26 a.m. and the cause of death was septic shock because of a massive infection. He had pneumonia last week.

Messages of condolence arrived from all over, from leaders of the church and political circles.

Among his last public appearances was the mass he celebrated in January 2016 for children who were taking their first communion during the 51st International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu. It was a special treat for Vidal, who was one of the first communicants when the country first hosted the religious congress back in 1937 in Manila.

Vidal was born in Mogpog, Marinduque Province as the fifth of six children of Faustino Vidal and Natividad Jamin. He was 25 when he became a priest in the St. Ferdinand Cathedral in Lucena City.

In the many years of service that followed, Cardinal Vidal witnessed the recognition of a second Filipino saint in San Pedro Calungsod. Two other religious figures of his lifetime, Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa of Calcutta, are both now saints. It was John Paul II who appointed him as coadjutor archbishop of Cebu in 1981.

He succeeded the late Julio Cardinal Rosales as archbishop of Cebu the year after. On May 25, 1985, Vidal became a cardinal.

As archbishop of Cebu, Cardinal Vidal championed many causes, including the canonization of Calungsod, and the ongoing cause for the beatification of Archbishop Teofilo Camomot.

He studiously kept a politically neutral profile.

But as president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in 1986, he led the CBCP in questioning the “unparalled fraudulence” of the snap elections that the dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. had called for. During the second People Power Revolution in 2001, Cardinal Vidal also advised then President Joseph Estrada to step down following allegations of massive corruption.

After the Vatican twice convinced him to postpone his retirement, Cardinal Vidal retired in January 2011 and decided to spend his final years in Cebu, his home for about four decades. The Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral is staying open for 24 hours until Saturday, to give the public time to visit the cardinal’s wake.
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