Cardinal wants NatGeo writer banned from PH

MANILA, Philippines - Cebu Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal proposed that American author Bryan Christy be banned from the Philippines after he accused a priest of being involved in the illegal ivory trade.

“He (Christy) deceived the people whom he interviewed when he said he was trying to publish something about the devotion (to the Sto. Niño),” Vidal said in an ABS-CBN News report.

Cardinal Vidal, who served as Archbishop of Cebu for over 30 years before he retired in 2012, criticized the author for writing in National Geographic magazine that Monsignor Cristobal Garcia gave him tips on how to smuggle ivory out of the country.

Church does not preach idolatry

Vidal also denied that the Catholic Church does not preach idolatry, as Christy's feature suggested.

“(The story is) telling us that we are idolaters. We never told anybody to adore (idols). It’s against our faith,” he stressed.

Vidal claimed that Garcia told him that he gave no advice to Chirsty, and the "tips" attributed to him in fact came from a woman.

BRYAN CHRISTY. Photo by Michael Bryant/2004 Playboy

BRYAN CHRISTY.

Photo by Michael Bryant/2004 Playboy

The article -- titled Blood Ivory: Ivory Worship and published on September 6 -- has led to an investigation by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB).

The investigation has been expanded to look into Catholic devotees collecting religious figures made of "blood" ivory smuggled from Africa, a crime pubished with up to four years in jail.

Author reacts

Christy immediately reacted to Vidal's statement and wrote on his website: "No word yet how Cardinal Vidal would treat Monsignor Cristobal Garcia, the alleged pedophile and ivory afficionado featured in Blood Ivory whom Vidal promoted to Monsignor and made a leader in an archdiocese of 4 million Catholics."

Monsignor Garcia is currently being probed by the NBI for his alleged role in the illegal ivory trade and last June he was also suspended by the Vatican over allegations that he abused children when he was based in the United States in the 1980s.

The international trade in elephant ivory is banned since 1989 by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), signed and ratified by the Philippines.

Last June, CITES expressed concern about the rise of the trade in the country, where record quantities of elephant tusks have been seized in the past 3 years, although not nearly as much as in China or Thailand. - Rappler.com, with reports from Agence France-Presse and Ryan Christopher J. Sorote