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Manila's Influential Former Archbishop Dies at 76


The Philippines is mourning the passing of its influential Catholic leader, Cardinal Jaime Sin. The former Catholic Archbishop of Manila, who died Tuesday at the age of 76, is remembered as a man who helped change the course of his nation's history.

Thousands of Filipinos flocked to the Manila Cathedral Tuesday to pay respect to Cardinal Jaime Sin. Many remember the long-time leader of the Philippines' Catholic Church for his pivotal role in toppling the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.

As the military prepared to drive Mr. Marcos out of office in 1986, Cardinal Sin appealed to Filipino Catholics to congregate on Manila's main highway and act as a human shield for the defecting soldiers.

Hundreds of thousands of people heeded that call, unleashing an unprecedented mass protest known as "People Power," which over the years has become a fixture of Philippine democracy. Mr. Marcos fled to the United States and a new, democratic government was sworn in.

Reverend Jaime Belita, a theology professor at De La Salle University in Manila, says Cardinal Sin is remembered as someone who never abandoned his people during critical times. "He was right there when there was a need for someone to lead," he said.

In January 2001, nearly 15 years after the ouster of Mr. Marcos, Cardinal Sin again helped mobilize Filipinos to protest against another president, Joseph Estrada - who was facing allegations of massive corruption.

Cardinal Sin spoke against Mr. Estrada shortly before popular protests forced yet another president out of power.

"If such a government does not of itself really correct the evil it has inflicted on the people, then it is our serious moral obligation as a people to make it do so," Cardinal Sin stated.

Philippine President Gloria Arroyo, who succeeded Mr. Estrada, Tuesday hailed Cardinal Sin as a "great liberator" of the Filipino people.

Father Belita, who once worked with the man, says the cardinal's simplicity and humor endeared him to his people. Cardinal Sin himself would often joke about his unlikely name.

He retired in September 2003 after nearly three decades as archbishop of Manila, but he remained an outspoken critic of corruption in government. Some politicians criticized him for meddling in state affairs, and for his strict position against contraception in a country of 81-million people and endemic poverty.

Cardinal Sin died in Manila Tuesday after a lingering kidney problem.

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