MANILA - Archbishop Oscar Cruz, one of the strongest voices in the Philippine Catholic Church, was laid to rest on Friday in Dagupan City, where he served as metropolitan archbishop for almost two decades.
At the funeral mass at Saint John the Evangelist Cathedral, Archbishop Socrates Villegas paid tribute to his predecessor, calling him a saint who constantly sought a better Church and a better society for the people.
"He was a saint who rallied with us and joined us in picket lines against illegal gambling and prostitution, championing social justice and the rights of women," Villegas said.
Cruz, who was also a canon lawyer, was known for calling out sitting presidents and campaigning against gambling, especially "jueteng." He spared no one, blasting even the Church, including issues of sexual abuse committed by members of the clergy.
"He was angry because he was in love," Villegas said. "He was angry because he loved the world and the Church. He was angry at the way things were. It was not an anger that bred revenge and bloodthirst. It was an anger that was coming from a deep craving for something better for the Church, something more beautiful for society. It was an anger born from hope."
Pope Francis also extended his condolences through a letter from Vatican's secretary of state Cardinal Pietro Parolin and read during the mass by Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Antonio Tobias.
"His holiness joins you in giving thanks to the almighty God for the late archbishop’s many years of episcopal ministry and his forthright witness to the gospel and in commending his soul to the loving mercy of Christ the Good Shepherd," the letter said.
"To all who mourn his passing in the sure hope of the resurrection, the holy father cordially imparts his apostolic blessing as a pledge of consolation and strength in the Risen Lord."
Due to limitations on mass gathering to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, only a few people were allowed to attend the funeral, including several bishops, priests and family of Cruz.
After the mass, Cruz's remains were buried at the Santuario de San Juan Evangelista.
The archbishop passed away on Wednesday, August 26 at the age of 85 due to complications from COVID-19.
He served as archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan from 1991 to 2009. Before this, he was auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Manila where he was seen as protege of the late Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin. He also served as metropolitan archbishop of the Archdiocese of San Fernando in Pampanga.