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Archbishop remembered as ‘courageous prophet’ after death from COVID-19

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Rome Newsroom, Aug 26, 2020 / 07:30 am (CNA).- Archbishop Oscar Cruz died early Wednesday from coronavirus complications. He is believed to be the 10th Catholic bishop to die of COVID-19 since the outbreak of the global pandemic. 

The current archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan in the Philippines said that Cruz, its archbishop emeritus, died after “multiple organ failure caused by critical COVID-19 infection,” according to the official news outlet of the Catholic bishops’ conference of the Philippines.

Cruz died at Cardinal Santos Medical Center in San Juan City at the age of 85. He had been hospitalized since Aug. 10.

“He was a faithful shepherd. He was a courageous prophet. He was a brilliant canon lawyer … My heart is grateful that in this lifetime I met a great churchman like Archbishop Oscar V. Cruz,” Archbishop Socrates Villegas wrote on Facebook Aug. 26.

Cruz led the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan for nearly two decades from 1991 until his retirement in 2009. He was also president of the Philippines bishops’ conference from 1994 to 1999.

As archbishop, he was an outspoken critic of political corruption, as well as presidents and politicians in the Philippines. He also organized a campaign against illegal gambling, according to the bishops’ conference.

Cruz was the author of 54 books, including works on Catholic marriage, the call of the laity, administration of the temporal goods of the Church, and a critique of the Philippine bishops’ guidelines on sexual abuse cases.

After his retirement, he served as the judicial vicar of the National Appellate Tribunal of Appeals in the Philippines.

His funeral will be held Aug. 28 at St. John the Evangelist Cathedral in Dagupan. Due to the pandemic, his funeral will not be open to the public, but will be available for viewing via livestream on social media.

Cruz was the third Filipino bishop to contract COVID-19. Bishop Broderick Pabillo, the apostolic administrator of Manila archdiocese, and Bishop Emeritus Deogracias Iñiguez of Kalookan have both recovered after testing positive for the coronavirus.

There have been more than 200,000 coronavirus cases recorded in the Philippines and 3,137 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

Among the 10 bishops reported to have died in the pandemic, Cruz is the first known COVID-19 mortality in Asia. At least four bishops have died in South America, three in Europe, one in North America, and one in Africa.

Bishop Henrique Soares da Costa of Palmares, Brazil, died July 18 at the age of 57 after being hospitalized for more than two weeks in the intensive care unit of the St. Joseph Memorial Hospital in the northeastern Brazilian state of Pernambuco.

Archbishop Emeritus Pedro Ercílio Simon of Passo Fundo died June 1 at the age of 78 of COVID-19, and Archbishop Emeritus Aldo Pagotto of Paraiba, who was already suffering from cancer, died of respiratory failure April 14 in an intensive care unit for coronavirus patients at the age of 70.

Bishop Eugenio Scarpellini of El Alto, Bolivia, died July 15 after contracting the coronavirus. A native of Italy, the 66-year-old had served in the Bolivian diocese for 10 years.

In the United States, Boston auxiliary Bishop Emilio Allue died April 26 at the age of 85 of complications from COVID-19. Bishop Vincent Malone, 88, an auxiliary bishop of England’s Liverpool archdiocese, died May 18 after testing positive for the coronavirus a week prior.

At least two African bishops have died from the coronavirus. The bishop emeritus of Kenya’s Meru diocese, Bishop Silas Silvius Njiru, died in Turin, Italy, April 28 due to COVID-19 at the age of 91, according to the Consolata Missionaries.

Retired Bishop Gérard Mulumba Kalemba of Mweka, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, died April 15 at the age of 82 in a clinic in Kinshasa. 

The first bishop to die amid the coronavirus pandemic was Bishop Angelo Moreschi, an Italian bishop of a missionary region of Ethiopia’s Apostolic Vicariate of Gambella. Moreschi died at the age of 67 in Brescia, a city in Italy’s Lombardy region.

In addition, two bishops have died after recovering from the coronavirus. Chinese Bishop Joseph Zhu Baoyu died May 7, months after recovering from the coronavirus. The 98-year-old bishop of Nanyang diocese in Henan province was thought to have been the oldest person to survive the disease when he left hospital Feb. 14, according to UCAN News.

In Bangladesh Archbishop Moses Costa of Chittagong died in hospital July 13 from a series of strokes two weeks after recovering from COVID-19. He had tested positive for the coronavirus June 14 after being hospitalized in Dhaka for severe respiratory distress. 

After treatment in the ICU, the bishop’s condition improved, leading him to test negative for COVID-19 on June 22. However, he was transferred back to the ICU on July 8 and suffered from multiple strokes caused by a brain hemorrhage, according to Vatican News. Costa died at the age of 69.

As of Aug. 26, there have been more than 23.9 million documented cases of COVID-19 worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. At least 820,209 people have died in the pandemic.


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