“Cardinal Vidal cannot die. He who has always shared in the dying and rising of the Lord daily in his priestly life cannot die,” said Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas in his moving tribute to Ricardo J. Cardinal Vidal, archbishop emeritus of Cebu, who passed away on October 18 at the age of 86.
Such is the tenor of the eulogies that have poured in for the long-time prelate of Cebu, the birthplace of Christianity in the Philippines, and justly so, because of the void left by the cardinal in the spiritual and civic lives of Filipinos.
Vidal was born to Natividad Jamin, a native of Marinduque and Faustino Vidal of Pila, Laguna. A successful ministry that began in Lucena, Quezon in 1955 earned for him the episcopate in just 16 years in the priesthood.
After stints in the sees of Malolos and Lipa, Pope St. John Paul 2nd assigned him to the Archdiocese of Cebu in 1982, a challenge considering Vidal’s Tagalog heritage. Vidal had been coadjutor (a bishop with the right to succession) to Julio Cardinal Rosales, a native of the region.
Rosales was a tough act to follow, having led the celebrations marking the 400th year of Christianity in the Philippines. Yet Vidal flourished in the Cebuano see and embraced it as if it was his hometown, and the Cebuanos reciprocated and made him their spiritual father.
This is probably Vidal’s legacy as a shepherd of his flock – maintaining the spiritual fervor of the Cebuanos amid growing moral relativism and irreligion elsewhere. Cebu’s fervent religiosity, fostered by Vidal, was in full display in early 2016, during the 51st International Eucharistic Congress. Vidal played a major role in the important Catholic gathering, leading an open-air Mass and administering first communion to children (He was returning the favor; Vidal received his first communion during the 33rd edition of the international congress in Manila in 1937).
The faithful of Cebu were further edified when Vidal gave them their first saint, Pedro Calungsod, the Visayan catechist who was martyred in the Marianas.
It was of course the now Pope Emeritus Benedict 16th who uttered the sacred canonization formula at St. Peter’s Square in 2012, but it would have not been possible without Vidal’s persistence.
Vidal pursued the cause of Calungsod even if that of the Visayan proto-martyr’s Jesuit master, Blessed Diego Luis de San Vitores, languished.
In the temporal realm, Vidal’s services were likewise invaluable. “His intercession in such crises as military coups, labor disputes, evictions of squatters and vendors, clashes of political camps, and threats of injustice avoided bloodshed and brought peace by coaxing contenders to consider peaceful options and alternatives, for which he has been accorded the well-deserved and endearing title of “The Peacekeeper,” the Philippine Senate said in a resolution passed in December 2010.
“Under his able leadership, he creatively tapped resources of the Archdiocese to help the poor and the oppressed, thus living out the principle of stewardship not only among priests and bishops but also among parishioners and faithful followers of the Church.”
Vidal moreover had “ably represented the role of spiritual leaders in nation-building without compromising the principle of separation of Church and State, and without stoking the fire of intolerance and prejudice.”
The Manila Times joins the nation in mourning the passing of Cardinal Vidal, a tireless worker in the Lord’s vineyard and a zealous advocate of the welfare of man.