CONDEMNING sin is one of the most basic and essential Christian teachings. But last month, Filipinos grieved the death of the only Sin the Catholic Church regrets losing.

Jaime Cardinal Sin, one of the more prominent Filipino religious icons, left a rich legacy after his reign as the Archbishop of Manila. In particular, he united the country during its darkest hours.

But the national arena was not the sole concern of the late prelate during his lifetime. Apart from being the Archbishop of Manila, the late cardinal was also associated with the University as a member of its Board of Trustees.

Recognizing Sin’s excellence in leadership, the University granted him an honorary doctorate degree in Sacred Theology, honoris causa, on March 26, 1977.

According to Faculty of Arts and Letters regent Fr. Lucio Gutierrez, O.P., the honorary degree was bestowed on the late cardinal due to his brilliance and integrity.

“Cardinal Sin was more than a man of Church to deserve that honor,” Gutierrez told the Varsitarian. “This title is usually given to great ecclesiastics who shaped the society.”

Fr. Fausto Gomez, O.P., College of Rehabilitation Science regent and the late Cardinal’s friend, said Sin lived up to his motto “Serviam,” from the Latin serviare, which means “to serve,” as he spent his life serving both the Church and the country.

A testament to this maxim is evident in one of the projects Sin established after retiring as Manila Archbishop.

Inaugurated in 2003, the Cardinal Sin Village, located in the one of Manila’s poorest communities, is home to 250 families. Aside from the housing units, the village also has a school and a chapel.

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According to the cardinal’s brother, Dr. Ramon Sin, assistant to the rector for external affairs, the late prelate also donated a vast portion of land in their hometown in New Washington, Aklan to the Pink Sisters Congregation.

Without his brother’s consent, the late cardinal donated even his sibling’s share of inherited land so that a village for the poor could be put up by Mother Teresa’s Missionary Sisters of Charity. He only knew about it when he received a letter from Mother Teresa, expressing her gratitude over the donation.

“He practically died a poor man. He gave away everything,” Dr. Sin said. “The late cardinal just wanted to be remembered as a simple priest.”

Lighter side

For a man who tackled serious national issues, from the protection of life to the restoration of morality and democracy, Sin also had his share of lighter moments.

Rector Fr. Tamerlane Lana, O.P. said the cardinal, who was a humble man of God, was famous for making fun of his own name.

“I was privileged to be one of the guests he received in Villa San Miguel with his usual pun: ‘Welcome to the House of Sin,’” Lana said in his homily during the requiem mass offered by UST last June 23 at the Manila Cathedral.

He added that some people would take the Cardinal’s name in jest.

“Punsters say he is the only Sin to have been glorified by the Church,” Lana said. “He is also the only Sin to be elevated to the position of cardinal.”

Lana also cited Sin’s fondness of cheering people through jokes.

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During his installation as Rector of the University, Lana referred him as an “expert of sex” in the late prelate’s homily.

“Of course, he meant an expert in sexual morality,” Lana said, adding that the Cardinal gave some comic relief to the very serious occasion.

“Calling me an ‘expert’ was indeed something to make me feel good,” Lana said.

Theologian of the common man

Gomez said people were at ease every time the cardinal delivers his speeches and homilies.

“He knows how to interpret the words of God for the people,” Gomez said. “In every speech, he inserts a beautiful story. That’s why everybody is so at ease with him.”

Although the late cardinal refused to be considered a theologian for he is “just a shepherd of the people,” Gomez said Sin is known for being a great storyteller.

“When he speaks, everyone listens because he was able to read the signs of the times,” Gomez said. “People followed because they see him as their voice. I consider him a great theologian for that.”

Gomez recounted one of the cardinal’s favorite stories.

Once, Sin went to Tondo and met a boy. He asked the boy, “Where is Manila?” The boy replied, “In the Philippines.” The cardinal asked where the Philippines is located, and the boy answered in Asia.

“Where is Asia?” he asked again.

“In the world,” the boy answered back.

“Where is the world?” Sin asked the boy.

The boy replied, “In the hands of the Santo Niño.”

“He loved that story very much,” Gomez said of the tale.

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Jaime Cardinal Sin’s guidance is credited for the country’s two people power revolutions. His firm stand on political issues was a beacon of light amid chaos and turmoil that became a model of peaceful change in the world. Even if he had a soft side, he was bold and courageous in uniting the country through the teachings of the Church.

With his death, the Church has lost not only a servant and a worker in the Lord’s vineyard, but perhaps, the institution’s “greatest Sin.” Miko L. Morelos and Kris P. Bayos

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