One used "simple conscience and simple justice to move mountains of opposition." The other was relentless in assuring "victims of violence by repressive regimes that they are not alone." One was a man of the church, the other of the state, and last night separating the two was out of the question.
It was the eight-year-old International Human Rights Law Group's first awards presentations, and receiving them before a sellout crowd at the National Press Club were Cardinal Jaime Sin, archbishop of Manila, and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.).
"My dear brothers and sisters, this is the first time that sin is glorified," the archbishop said.
Sin's award was for his role after this year's Philippine elections, when he called on his nuns, priests and bishops to get people into the streets in support of military rebels who refused to participate in the government of Ferdinand Marcos.
In paying tribute to Sin, Rep. Stephen Solarz (D-N.Y.) said, "If there was any one man responsible for democracy in the Philippines, it's Cardinal Sin. It's the only time in history when it was the people who protected the army rather than the army protecting the people."
The accolades were equally bountiful for Kennedy. "He's more than the senior senator from Massachusetts," said Mpho Tutu, daughter of South Africa's Bishop Desmond Tutu, in introducing him. "In a host of things he's the senior senator of the dispossessed."
With Undersecretary of State Michael H. Armacost and Assistant Secretary Richard Shifter, who oversees the Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs at State, listening from the dais, Tutu listed a roll call of countries where Kennedy has focused attention on human rights abuses.
"It should not be surprising that Senator Kennedy was able to counter the image of the United States government's support for South Africa's apartheid regime," said Tutu, an electrical engineering student at Howard University.
Kennedy was quick to share his spotlight, describing Cardinal Sin as one of the "authentic moral leaders of our time."
The senator reiterated his longstanding position on fighting for human rights. "We must never permit this great arsenal of democracy to become an arsenal of repression," he said. "Quiet diplomacy is no answer to the painful cries of the imprisoned and tortured. Nor is it an answer to the hopeful yearnings of those who, like our forebears, are willing to risk 'lives, fortunes and sacred honor' as they reach toward freedom." Before dinner, Sin had all the characteristics of a politician as he strolled through the crowd, shaking hands and posing for pictures.
"I couldn't decide whether I should shake hands or kiss the hand," said Marcia Cruz, a Filipino working for the International Monetary Fund. "Then I decided to show respect and kiss the hand."
Sin told Richard and Kate Rossier that back in the Philippines "everything is just wonderful. Cory Aquino is running the country like a good housewife runs a home. We need more women presidents."
Speaking in a variation of that theme to Sargent and Eunice Shriver, he repeated that women were wonderful.
"Eunice said we've always known that, and I said but how about for pope. You can't have a woman pope," Shriver said later.
The Rev. Robert Drinan, a former congressman, said Sin "coalesced everything -- they were waiting for a leader. If they hadn't had him, I don't know if it would have happened or not. It may be that Marcos would have shot it out."
Patricia Derian, who was Jimmy Carter's human rights expert at the State Department, said she doubted that the peaceful overthrow of Marcos could have happened without Sin and Aquino.
"I don't know if you're supposed to say this about a prince of the church, but he is a brilliant, brilliant politician," said Derian, whose husband, Hodding Carter, was the evening's master of ceremonies.
Mpho Tutu saw nothing threatening about a man of the cloth being so involved in matters of state.
"There's always the complaint that the church meddles in politics, but then," she said, "Christianity is a very political religion."