Cardinal Ricardo Vidal, who was Archbishop of Cebu from 1982 to 2010 and a leading Catholic figure in the fall of Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos, died Wednesday at the age of 86. Pope Francis praised the cardinal’s “untiring and devoted service to the Church” and his “constant advocacy of dialogue and peace for all the people in the Philippines.” “I commend his soul to the infinite love and mercy of our heavenly Father,” he said in an Oct. 18 telegram, voicing condolences to Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu and the clergy, religious, and laity of the archdiocese.
In the early 1980s Vidal became vice-president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. He served as the conference’s president from 1985 to 1987. With Cardinal Jaime Sin of Manila, he took a lead role in what has become known as the People’s Power Revolution. He issued a famous letter denouncing the results of the country’s February 1986 snap elections that gave a slim victory to longtime ruler President Ferdinand Marcos over his challenger Corazon Aquino. The elections were denounced for widespread fraud. After widespread non-violent protests, Marcos would leave office to live in exile.
During another period of political tensions in 2001, Cardinal Vidal urged then-president Joseph Estrada to resign amid allegations of corruption, ABS-CBN News reports. The cardinal later convinced Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to pardon Estrada after he was convicted.
Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato remembered Vidal as “a true servant-leader, rather than a ‘prince’.” He said the late cardinal left a legacy of outstanding character, CBCP News reports. The cardinal showed humility and had a low-profile style, according to Quevedo. He was approachable and was able to listen to opposing views. He showed prudence in political issues, charity towards those considered “enemies,” and “courage” in presenting the Catholic bishops’ position ahead of the People Power Revolution.
The future cardinal was born Feb. 6, 1931 in Mogpoc, a city in the central island province of Marinduque. He studied for the priesthood at the minor seminary of the Most Holy Rosary, later named for Our Lady of Carmel. He also studied at the seminary of San Carlo. Bishop Alfredo Maria Aranda Obviar of Lucena, who has been named a Servant of God, ordained him a priest in March 1956.
Bishop Obviar named Vidal spiritual director of the local seminary of Mount Carmel, which the priest later served as superior. In September 1971 he was named Coadjutor Bishop of Malolos, a diocese in the Central Luzon province of Bulacan. He did not succeed as ordinary of Malolos, however, as in August 1973 he was named Archbishop of Lipa in the province of Batangas.
In April 1981 he was named Coadjutor Archbishop of Cebu, whose archbishop at the time was Cardinal Julio Rosales. He succeeded Cardinal Rosales in August 1982. He was named a cardinal by St. John Paul II in 1985. Msgr. Joseph Tan, a spokesman for the Cebu archdiocese, said Vidal had become seriously ill and was admitted to hospital Oct. 11. He said the cause of death was infection leading to septic shock. He asked for prayers for the cardinal’s soul.
A wake for the cardinal has begun at Cebu’s cathedral. On Oct. 21 his body will be brought to the St. Pedro Calungsod Shrine, inside the compound of the archbishop’s residence. His funeral will take place Oct. 26 at 9 a.m. in the cathedral. He will be laid to rest in the mausoleum at the back of the cathedral’s sacristry.
Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Philippines bishops’ conference, praised the cardinal’s legacy. “Cardinal Vidal cannot die,” Villegas said. “He who has always shared in the dying and rising of the Lord daily in his priestly life cannot die. He now joins the immortal ones who served the Lord faithfully here on earth. His wisdom and his humility, his love for priests and his devotion to the Virgin Mary must live on in us whom he has left behind.” “Rest well Eminence,” said the archbishop. “Pray for us in the Father’s House.”