Jaime Cardinal Sin, 76

I grew up a Roman Catholic Christian and went to Catholic schools for three quarters of my academic life.  (Grade and High School at St. Paul College of Quezon City and then for my JD from the Ateneo School of Law.) 

Cardinal Sin, like Pope John Paul II, was always a  huge presence in my life, with the former being the Prince of the Roman Catholic Church and the latter being its head.  Like Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Sin did not think twice about the separation of Church and State and never hesitated to rally his faithful to support the right cause even if it meant blurring the lines between the two.

He was instrumental in bringing down the Marcos regime and has been a big influence in exhorting the Filipino people to be calm and advocate peaceful means in their mass actions. 

In the last few years, he had become less politically active but continued to remain a force behind the Philippines’ hugely Catholic population.  I remember that the last notable news I read about the late Cardinal was how he was heartbroken that he was too sick to fly to Rome to lay the late John Paul II to rest.  Apparently, the two men had developed a friendship after they become friends when they roomed together during the conclave held that elected the late Pope to become the new head of the Catholic faithful.

Now the two are together on the other side.  Peace finally theirs.

From the online edition of THE PHILIPPINE STAR>:

Mourners grieve for influential cardinal that helped topple two presidencies
06/21 5:43:43 PM

MANILA (AFP) – With the death of Cardinal Jaime Sin, the hugely influential Roman Catholic spiritual leader who helped to topple two Philippine presidents, hundreds of mourners began streaming to Manila cathedral at noon to pay their respects to Sin.

The influential cardinal died at the age of 76 of multiple organ failure after a lengthy struggle with kidney problems and diabetes.

President Gloria Arroyo called him a “great liberator” while the early mourners at the cathedral included former president Corazon Aquino.

As the most visible church leader in this mainly Catholic nation of 84 million, Sin played a major role in rallying public support for the popular revolt that toppled dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

Sin was one of the few vocal critics of military rule after Marcos declared martial law in 1972.

He also helped rally the public for a military-backed, popular uprising that toppled scandal-ridden president Joseph Estrada in 2001.

Marcos and Estrada were replaced respectively by devout Catholics Aquino and incumbent Gloria Arroyo, both of whom enjoyed Sin’s staunch support.

The cardinal retired as archbishop of Manila in 2003 and had largely lived quietly in seclusion in his villa in a Manila suburb. He suffered a heart attack in October.

His body has arrived at Manila Cathedral where it will lie in state.

Aquino, a close friend of Sin, attended a mass for him along with hundreds of clergymen, citizens and schoolchildren.

Arroyo praised Sin as “a great liberator of the Filipino people and a champion of God,” calling him a “blessed man who never failed to unite Filipinos during the most crucial battles against tyranny and evil.”

She recalled that “many times, I was guided by his wisdom and profound love for the poor and oppressed,” citing his role in the downfall of Marcos and Estrada.

Opposition leader and Senator Aquilino Pimentel said that “the nation lost a spiritual leader who helped shape the nation’s political landscape.”

Sin’s private secretary Father Rufino Sescon said the cardinal had been deeply affected by the death in April of his friend Pope John Paul II, possibly leading to a deterioration in his own condition.

“He truly was affected by the loss of our beloved holy father,” Sescon said, recalling that Sin had wanted to attend the pope’s funeral but had been too ill.

In a television interview one of Sin’s brothers, Ramon Sin, remembered him as a man who was “deeply in love with the Philippine people” but was also full of good humour and laughter, even during tense moments.

Secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines Monsignor Hernando Coronel, said the organization was “in great mourning at the demise of Cardinal Sin. We feel a deep loss.”

He recalled Sin’s role in toppling Marcos, saing “Cardinal Sin has contributed to the growth and flourishing of the faith and the restoration of freedom and democracy to our nation.”

Jaime Sin’s role as one of the few who would openly criticize Marcos boosted both his popularity and that of the church.

He was an adviser to Aquino after she became president. But when former military chief Fidel Ramos, a Protestant, was elected president in 1992, Sin openly criticised his administration for moves to amend the constitution and to promote birth control.

Although Sin was already ailing when Estrada was elected in 1998, he was a constant critic of Estrada’s mismanagement and led influential clergymen in calling on the president to resign after a corruption scandal in November 2000.

Critics called Sin a “politician-priest,” saying he interfered in political matters in which the church should have kept its distance.

But the cardinal defended his actions, saying in his retirement speech in 2003: “Politics without Christ is the greatest scourge of our nation.”

Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales, who succeeded Sin, said the burial was tentatively scheduled for next Tuesday.