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The death of Cardinal Jaime Sin is a grievous loss to the Philippines. Cardinal Sin was a spiritual and moral force in a country that often seemed to lack that authority. He provided comfort and wisdom to the Philippine people, and legitimacy to the popular movements that toppled two governments. He was a great unifier in a country better known for its divisions.

Cardinal Sin died last week at the age of 76 after years of struggle with kidney problems and diabetes. He served the Roman Catholic community, a dominating force in a nation of 84 million, for nearly 30 years, retiring as archbishop of Manila in 2003.

A man of personal courage, probity and humor, Cardinal Sin is best known for helping to rally public support for the People Power revolution that toppled Ferdinand Marcos in 1986. He was one of the most vocal critics of the martial law regime that Marcos had declared in 1972. Fifteen years later, he again provided a moral center for opposition to the regime of President Joseph Estrada, who was overthrown by the public and the military in 2001 after several scandals.

Cardinal Sin was unflinching in his support for the poor and his demand for liberty. After helping marshal opposition to Mr. Estrada’s corrupt government, he apologized to the Philippine people, saying their neglect by the Church had allowed them to be manipulated by selfish people like Mr. Estrada.

Today, the government of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is under attack for corruption, inefficiency and a lack of direction. Daily, there are rumors of coup plots and new allegations against the president. In such an environment, the Philippines needs more than ever Cardinal Sin’s wisdom and authority. He will be much missed.

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