Philippine Cardinal Jaime L. Sin Dies at 76

By Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Cardinal Jaime L. Sin, 76, the curiously named archbishop of Manila whose crucial support for his country's "people power" revolution of the 1980s made him one of the most politically influential members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, died June 21 in the Philippines.

The cardinal, who retired nearly two years ago, suffered from kidney and heart problems and had been prevented by health from attending the gathering of cardinals in Rome that selected a new pope this year.

Amid the swirling political ferment that engulfed the Philippines in 1986, the cardinal won international renown for helping tip the scales against the authoritarian rule of Ferdinand Marcos and in favor of Corazon Aquino.

At a key moment in February of that year, the cardinal called on his flock to surround the police and military headquarters in the nation's capital, Manila. More than 1 million people took to the streets, clutching Bibles and uttering prayers, in an outpouring that shielded anti-government rebels from attack.

That was one of the principal events in the revolution that forced the resignation of Marcos, whose regime, dating from the 1960s, had been accused of corruption, electoral fraud and violations of human rights.

Later, the cardinal, while delivering a homily at a Mass of thanksgiving, demonstrated what was described as unprecedented personal support for a political leader, clearly endorsing Aquino as he led a chant of "Co-ry! Co-ry!"

Beyond its effects on the Philippines, the peaceful ouster of Marcos has been cited as a milestone in the movement toward popularly chosen governments throughout the world.

The cardinal's actions did not necessarily make him a role model for political participation by the clergy, however. It was reported that he caused uneasiness at the Vatican and that he was summoned to Rome to explain himself.

Even as he challenged political authority, the cardinal was viewed as obedient to the authority of the church. He was known for staunch opposition to abortion and to artificial means of birth control.

In one example of his humor, the cardinal, who was one of the last of 15 children, told an interviewer that had his parents practiced birth control he never would have been born.

Those who met him found a rotund figure who was prone to wisecracks, and his jollity extended to his name. Visitors to his residence in Manila were received this way: "Welcome to the House of Sin."

It was reported that he received some votes in the gathering of cardinals that elected Pope John Paul II. Later it appeared that his name was being floated as a successor to John Paul, but he quickly quelled speculation.

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