Cruise Calls Travolta Tragedy 'Horrific,' Defends Scientology

Actor, fellow Scientologist makes first statement on Jett Travolta's death.

January 2, 2009, 5:51 PM

Jan. 8, 2009— -- Nearly a week after the death of John Travolta and Kelly Preston's 16-year-old son, Jett, Tom Cruise is weighing in on the tragedy.

"It's horrific," a visibly shaken Cruise said in an interview scheduled to air Friday on ABC's "The View." "It's just horrific. Here you have a man, both of them doting parents, they're wonderful people and ..."

Cruise trailed off before commenting on the speculation that Scientology, the religion to which he and the Travoltas adhere, discourages followers from seeking medical care.

Tune into "The View" Friday for the full interview with Tom Cruise, 11 a.m. ET on ABC

"That's just not true. It's actually false," Cruise said. "They say, 'Get your physical, get your medication, get your physical illnesses handled.'"

In a statement to ABC News earlier this week, the Church of Scientology responded to critics who claim it does not promote medical treatment.

"Scientologists seek conventional medical treatment for medical conditions," the church said in a statement. "Scientologists use prescription drugs when physically ill and also rely on the advice and treatment of medical doctors. The Church does not involve itself in the diagnosis or classification of any medical condition."

Cruise went on to share his memories of Jett.

"I remember Jett when he was born," Cruise said. "I saw him when he was just a few months old and John just adored him, and both of his children, and Kelly."

"I just don't have the words for it," Cruise concluded, referring to Jett's death.

Cruise visited "The View" the same day Travolta and Preston were scheduled to bid final farewell to Jett. A private funeral service is scheduled to take place in the family's hometown of Ocala, Fla., this afternoon, according to The Associated Press.

Travolta's biographer told ABC News that Jett was the one subject Travolta rarely discussed.

"It was taboo, in the sense of not going into detail about his condition. It was one of these subjects that he didn't want to go into. And I had to respect that," said Douglas Thompson, who has known the actor for more than three decades.

That condition has been described by Travolta and Preston as Kawasaki syndrome, a rare disease the Travoltas say Jett developed at a young age. Jett Travolta died last week, the result of an apparent seizure, according to an autopsy report.

Thompson speculated Travolta will draw on support from Scientology, the religion that has seen he and his family through tragedies in the past, as well as Ocala residents.

Scientology, Celebrities, Community to Serve as Comfort

"He's been a Scientologist for many years. I'd imagine that would give him comfort now," Thompson said. "It's controversial for some, but the religion has done him well."

Other celebrities have come out to support the Travoltas as well. On Wednesday, Lisa Marie Presley, a follower of the religion, defended Scientology in a blog while expressing condolences over Jett's death.

"I am writing this because I have noticed that for the most part, people and the media have been very sympathetic and respectful, but there are those certain ones that want to use this horrible tragedy as an opportunity to once again, blame and-or attack Scientology."

She called the belief that scientologists don't allow medical care "garbage" and said Travolta and his wife were on a "tireless, never ending quest to get and provide him [Jett] with the absolute best care anyone could ever ask for and need."

The Travoltas will likely have a church-inspired funeral for Jett, church observers say. The Church of Scientology released a statement to ABC News detailing its views on death and funerals.

"In Scientology we believe that you have lived before and that you will live again," the statement said. "The spirit, which is you, is immortal and you are not your body. You as an individual are an immortal spiritual being and simply put, you have lived before and will live again, lifetime after lifetime. In Scientology these past existences are simply referred to as past lives.

"The Scientology funeral service celebrates the life of the person who has departed his body," the church's statement continued. "Friends and family have the opportunity to say goodbye, to acknowledge and thank the person for what he or she has done in this lifetime, and to wish them well as they move on to their next lifetime. The service is a reaffirmation of the knowledge that we are immortal spiritual beings."

Stephen Kent, a professor of sociology and alternative religions at the University of Alberta and an expert on Scientology, elaborated on typical proceedings.

"Someone will give readings from [Scientology founder] L. Ron Hubbard, including possibly a eulogy. It will be difficult for Scientologists to talk about a young man's life. It's likely they'll talk more about his parents' love for him," he said. "Scientologists are flexible about whether the body or ashes must be present at the funeral. There can even just be a picture of the person. Certainly, non-Scientologists can come to the funeral."

"A Scientology funeral is likely to emphasize the movement of the thetan from attachment to this body to attachment to another body," Kent added. "The hope is that the thetan will come back in better times, with a better body, with a better spiritual nature."

After the funeral, it's likely the organization will ask Travolta, his family and Jett's caretakers to undergo evaluations to banish any ill feelings about the tragedy.

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