Roman Catholic Cardinal Jaime Sin, the Philippines' moral compass and a key figure in the 'people power' revolts that ousted two presidents, died Tuesday, June 21, 2005. He was 76. The Cardinal had been ill for years (suffering from kidney problems and diabetes) and retired as Manila's Archbishop in November 2003, but remained the most influential religious figure in the country. "History will mark this day of sadness when a great liberator of the Filipino people and a champion of God passed away," President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said in a statement.
Cardinal Sin insisted that religion had a role to play in the affairs of the state, a conviction he summed up at his retirement ceremony: "My duty is to put Christ in politics. Politics without Christ is the greatest scourge of the nation."
The 14th of 16 siblings, Jaime Lachica Sin was born in New Washington, in the Diocese of Kalibo, on Aug. 31, 1928. He was educated in the faith by his mother, a great religious woman who converted her husband, a Chinese shopkeeper, from Buddhsim to the Catholic faith before their marriage. The future cardinal humorously reported that his mother encouraged him as a child in his vocation by telling him that, as the ugliest of her children, he would become a priest.
Jaime was indeed ordained a priest on April 3, 1954. His first pastoral endeavor was to visit each one of the hundreds of small widespread parishes and to inspire vocations for the new St. Pius X Seminary. At the end of this work, which lasted three years and bore considerable fruit, he was appointed rector of the seminary in 1957. He served there for 10 years as principal, dean of studies, professor and diocesan consultant.
He was consecrated a bishop at age 38 on March 18, 1967, and named auxiliary of Jaro and, eventually, coadjutor with the right of succession. He succeeded the Archbishop of Jaro in 1972, when he was 44. Pope Paul VI named him Archbishop of Manila on Jan. 21, 1974, where he pursued his pastoral work courageously despite the dangers and difficulties of the country's situation. The Pope elevated him to cardinal two years later, making him, at 47, the youngest member of the College of Cardinals
He received Pope John Paul II twice in his pastoral visits to the Philippines - in 1981 and 1995. In the second apostolic trip, to close World Youth Day, 4 million faithful attended the Mass in Rizal Park in Manila — the largest human gathering in history,
The Cardinal was a great defender of democracy in the Philippines and of peaceful political transition, becoming famous for his commitment to the Filipinos against the dictatorship of President Ferdinand Marcos and the corruption of the Estrada government. In 1986 he headed peaceful protests which led to the fall of President Marcos. He played the same role in 2001 when he appealed to the people to put an end to the corrupt government of Joseph Estrada. Sin was also a staunch opponent of artificial birth control, and in August 1994, he mobilized hundreds of thousands of people in a rally denouncing a state policy encouraging the use of condoms and pills to curb rapid population growth.
A man of ready wit, Sin initially trod a cautious line on becoming Archbishop of Manila in 1976. He once likened himself to Jesus, saying that, seated between the Marcoses, he felt that he was being "crucified between two thieves". On another occasion, when Marcos said that he admired the United States because the people knew the result of an election the day after it was held, Sin is said to have replied, "You should admire the Filipino people - they know the results before the election."
The relationship plummeted irretrievably when government troops raided a seminary in the belief that it was harbouring insurgents. By 1978 Sin was on a list of those not permitted to travel abroad, although a protest by his fellow Bishops soon freed him to visit Pope Paul VI, who had appointed him a cardinal.
But it was after the opposition leader Benigno Aquino was murdered at the Manila airport as he returned from exile in 1983 that Sin's criticisms increased. He warned that there was an ugly mood in the country, which could lead to results that would hurt the poor. When Ronald Reagan pushed Marcos into a general election, Sin urged Aquino's widow Cory to run. As the government became more repressive in its efforts to win the vote, the National Bishops' Conference issued increasingly outspoken pastoral letters.
After Marcos's victory, Mrs. Aquino used the Church's radio station to call for non-violent resistance, prompting the defence minister and vice-chief of the defence staff to break with Marcos, along with 300 other army rebels. As troops marched on their headquarters, Sin went on the air calling "all the children of God" to protect the two former government members. During the next three days, one million unarmed Filipinos formed a human shield in Manila's Avenue of the Epiphany of the Saints, pressing rosaries and sandwiches on the tank crews and thrusting flowers down the barrels of their guns, and prevented them from reaching the errant pair. Soon Marcos fled to Hawaii and the strongly Catholic Corazon Aquino became president. The whole episode was a miracle, Sin declared, "scripted by God, directed by the Virgin Mary, and starring the Filipino people".
Here are the events related by Cardinal Sin himself to a journalist:
"It began in February, 1986, as the virtual twenty-year dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos came to an abrupt and unexpected end through a series of strange events. Corazon Aquino, the widow and reluctant political replacement of slain opposition leader Ninoy Aquino, had won the presidential election. In a stunning upset, she was elected by an overwhelming margin in the snap election, called for by Marcos himself. The Cardinal pointed out that Marcos had called for elections in order to crush the building opposition. However, through ballot-box stuffing and other illegal activities, plus a total control of the media, Marcos flagrantly had himself declared the winner...
"The rigged election results were blatant and obvious to neutral observers and also to the people. Within days, millions took to the streets of Makati and Manila, spurred to action when a dissatisfied segment of the military launched an unexpected coup attempt... Marcos responded to the rebellion-and-coup attempt by sending tanks down the streets of the city. He was determined to maintain his grip on the country, even if it meant to massacre the swelling crowds.
"As a full convoy of tanks and other armament, manned by hard-core militant soldiers, came against millions of civilians, many of whom were virtually lying down in the streets in front of the tanks, Marcos gave the order to fire on the people."
Cardinal Sin leaned forward in his chair, smiling. "What I am telling you now was told to me by many of these same soldiers who were ready to fire on the people." Reclining again, he continued.
"The tanks were trying to penetrate the crowd. And the people were praying and showing their rosaries. That is when, according to these soldiers, the Marines who were riding on top of the tanks, the so-called Loyalists (to Marcos), saw up in the clouds the form of the cross. The many sisters had tried to stop them, but they (the soldiers) told me they had already decided to obey instructions and push through. It is now just a question of ten minutes or so. You push the trigger, and there you are, everybody will be dead."
Again, the Cardinal leaned forward: "Then, a beautiful lady appeared to them. I don't know if She appeared in the sky or was standing down on the ground. (Others would later tell me they thought She was a nun, dressed in blue, and that She was standing in front of the tanks.) So beautiful She was, and Her eyes were sparkling. And the beautiful lady spoke to them like this: 'Dear soldiers, stop! Do not proceed! Do not harm My children!' And when they heard that, the soldiers put down everything. They came down from the tanks, and they joined the people. So, that was the end of the Loyalists."
Cardinal Sin paused, turning his hands upward: "I don't know who these soldiers are. All I know is that they came here crying to me. They did not tell me that is was the Virgin. They told me only that it was a beautiful sister. But you know (he paused, laughing heartily), I have seen all the sisters in Manila, and there are no beautiful ones. So it must have been the Virgin!"
Continuing on a more serious tone: "Yes, My heart was telling me, this was Mary. And since they obeyed this woman who appeared to them and did not follow orders and fire on the people, Marcos had nobody anymore. So, he had to flee. That was the end of him."
Sin remained close to Mrs. Aquino and, for a while, things went well. Then all the old problems re-emerged: she was succeeded as president by Joseph Estrada, a womanizing, heavy-drinking former film star under whom it became government policy to issue condoms to control the birth rate. As revelations about Estrada's involvement with gambling interests emerged, Sin and Mrs. Aquino launched another demonstration of "people power", which led to a senate impeachment trial and Estrada being jailed, and his replacement at the presidency by Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
What is needed now for the Philippines is not to change presidents, but to change the financial system, and apply the Social Credit principles to put an end to the scandal of poverty!