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Philippines: Disgraced Catholic priest accused of ivory smuggling

September 27, 2012

A suspended senior Catholic priest faces a new scandal as law enforcement authorities launch an investigation into the smuggling of elephant ivory to feed a passion for religious icons in the deeply religious Philippines.

The Vatican had quietly stripped Monsignor Cristobal Garcia of his positions in the Archdiocese of Cebu in June — but not made it public — over accusations that he molested altar boys in the United States 20 years ago. He denies the claims.

Now, Monsignor Garcia, who rose to prominence in the Philippines despite the sex allegations, has been implicated in the illegal trade of ivory in a new scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church, which has used icons made of ivory for centuries.

National Geographic magazine reports in its October issue that Monsignor Garcia, one of the country’s best-known ivory collectors, told an undercover reporter the best way to smuggle an ivory carving of Santo Nino, the Christ Child, to the US was to “wrap it in old stinky underwear and pour ketchup on it”.


At least you can’t accuse him of trying to ignore the elephant in the room.


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