VATICAN CITY, JUNE 21, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI said he was “deeply saddened” by the death of Cardinal Jaime Sin, the retired archbishop of Manila who died at the age of 76.
The Pope relayed his sentiments in a message of sympathy to the faithful of the Archdiocese of Manila, which the Philippine cardinal headed for almost three decades. The archdiocese noted that Cardinal Sin has been described as “patriot and prophet.”
In a telegram to the prelate’s successor, Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales, the Holy Father recalled “with gratitude Cardinal Sin’s unfailing commitment to the spread of the Gospel and to the promotion of the dignity, common good, and national unity of the Philippine people.”
“I join you in praying that God our merciful Father will grant him the reward of his labors and welcome his noble soul into the joy and peace of his eternal Kingdom,” said Benedict XVI. He imparted his apostolic blessing to those gathered in Manila for a Mass for the cardinal’s eternal rest.
According to the Archdiocese of Manila, the cardinal was hospitalized on Sunday and succumbed today to multiple organ failure related to sepsis.
His delicate state of health — he suffered from kidney problems and diabetes — had prevented him from taking part in the conclave that elected Benedict XVI.
With his death, the College of Cardinals now numbers 181 members, including 115 electors.
Evangelizer and pastor
One 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 woman of great religiosity who converted her husband to the Catholic faith before their marriage.
In 1941 he entered the Minor Seminar of St. Vincent Ferrer in Jaro, where he stayed for only a few months as the War of the Pacific and the Japanese occupation of the Philippines forced him to seek refuge with his family in the mountains for three years.
When he returned there as a priest — he was ordained 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 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.
He was the youngest member of the Philippine bishops’ conference, over which he presided from 1977 to 1981.
Helped topple 2 presidents
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 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. The AsiaNews agency highlighted the cardinal’s capacity to have people follow him, which won him the nickname of “divine commander in chief.”
After his retirement in September 2003, Cardinal Sin gave his support to the current president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Arroyo, lamenting his demise, described him as a “blessed man who never failed to unite Filipinos during the most crucial battles against tyranny and evil.” She declared seven days of national mourning for the cardinal.
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 cardinal also organized protests against the state’s attempt to curb population growth.
Bishop Socrates Villegas of Balanga, the cardinal’s longtime private secretary, and Father Rufino Sescon Jr., his present secretary, were with him at the time of his death.
According to the Communications Office of the Archdiocese of Manila, Archbishop Rosales visited Cardinal Sin on Monday afternoon. The archbishop said the cardinal received the sacrament of the anointing of the sick. The prelate said he gave him a “farewell blessing.”
With Cardinal Sin’s death, the bishops of the Philippines have lost “a friend and a brother,” said Archbishop Fernando Capalla of Davao, president of the country’s episcopal conference, on behalf of all its members.
“Cardinal Sin was a great man, a great Filipino, a great prince of the Church,” wrote Archbishop Capalla in a statement. “We are saddened that he left us, but we rejoice that he has entered into Real Life — one that never ends.”
Cardinal Sin’s mortal remains were taken to the Cathedral of Manila, where he will lie in state until his burial, tentatively scheduled for June 28.
Archbishop Rosales presided over the first Mass for his eternal repose together with about 100 priests and numerous faithful, including former President Corazon Aquino.