Thousands gather for Cardinal Sin’s funeral, Philippine’s ‘champion of the poor’

Thousands gather for Cardinal Sin’s funeral, Philippine’s ‘champion of the poor’

.- The Manila Cathedral was packed this morning for the funeral mass of the much-loved Jaime Cardinal Sin, former archbishop of Manila.

The cardinal died in hospital June 21 of multiple organ failure secondary to sepsis, reported UCA News. The cardinal’s long struggle with kidney problems and general failing health led the Vatican to quickly accept his resignation in 2003, at the age of 75.. It also prevented him from travelling to Rome to participate in the conclave and elect a successor to John Paul II.

By the time he retired, he had served as bishop for 36 years, 29 of which were as archbishop in Manila.

Immediately following his death, President Gloria Arroyo-Macapagal had declared a week of national mourning for the cardinal known in the Philippines as “the champion of the poor” and the nation’s “divine commander-in-chief,” reported AP.

The cardinal lay in state at the cathedral for the full week. Thousands of Filipinos waited in long queues for a chance to pay the cardinal their last respects and pray by his casket. Draped in a Philippine flag, Cardinal Sin’s casket moved slowly in a horse-drawn carriage covered with white flowers in the square outside the Manila Cathedral, followed by bishops and a military honor guard. Police estimated the funeral crowd at about 20,000, some packing the cathedral and others watching on giant TV screens.The cardinal was to be buried in the crypt of the cathedral, where other archbishops are also buried.

Cardinal Sin’s successor, Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales, called the cardinal a “prophet” in his homily during the Sunday Mass at the Manila Cathedral.

Archbishop Julius Cardinal Darmaatmadja of Jakarta travelled to Manila Friday to pay Cardinal Sin his last respects as well. He said he admired the cardinal for playing an influential leadership role for all of Catholicism in Asia.

In his homily June 24, Bishop Antonio Tobias of Novaliches said he remembered Cardinal Sin teaching him how to become “a priest for the poor.” Cardinal Sin would join him on his visits to poor communities and would show him how to relate to the people.

In an interview at the wake Friday, Sr. Vissia Angeles recalled the cardinal’s simplicity, joy and high regard for priests. She remembered him saying: “The priest is an engineer who constructs bridge from earth going to heaven, the priest is the bridge of a man from earth going to heaven, the priest is the lawyer who defends the sinner before God, the priest is a doctor who heals the wound of sins, the priest is also a farmer who plants the seed of a man and a priest is a teacher that teaches the way to heaven.”

Jaime Sin was born the 14th of 16 children. He earned a Bachelor of Science major in Education and as a bishop received 24 honorary doctoral degrees in 24 universities in three continents.

He gained international recognition when he called people to prayer vigils on a highway near Manila to prevent violence between rebel soldiers and soldiers loyal to then-president Ferdinand Marcos.

Cardinal Sin's call also stirred a "people power" uprising that dismantled Marcos' 21-year presidency and paved the way for the restoration of democratic institutions in the country under Corazon Aquino, reported Radio Veritas Asia.

"To shut oneself away from the demands of political transformation of Asia is in a sense a denial of Christian identity," the cardinal had said when he was criticized for his actions. He had said the laity must promote the common good in politics, economics, culture and social relations.

He also helped to establish ties between the universal Church and the Church in China, and fostered the formation of the Lorenzo Ruiz Mission Society of priests to minister to Chinese people.

In his message during the celebration of the International Year of the Eucharist he said he has entrusted himself to the guidance and care of Mary. “She has always been for me a loving and devoted Mother and has always pointed me to her son. As she has loved me so I have always tried to love my priests and to love the flock entrusted to my care,” Cardinal Sin said.

For the 50th anniversary of the late cardinal's priesthood in 2004, Pope John Paul II praised him as a "good shepherd" who led his people "with evangelical zeal, energetic ability and steadfast will.”