Archive interview with Cardinal Jaime Sin - 1986

 Cardinal Sin, who died on Tuesday, gave the following interview on 7 March 1986, during a visit to London. "The United States played a most important role in our change of Government," Cardinal Jaime Sin, Archbishop of Manila and Primate of the Philippines, said during an interview in London on 7 March 1986. The Peoples' Cardinal, as he was known, said that the United States was helpful in convincing President Ferdinand Marcos to leave the country. He emphasized: "Had it not been for this, Marcos would have stayed and there would have been much bloodshed." The Cardinal also praised the role played by U. S. special envoy Philip Habib. Cardinal Sin was in England as the guest of Cardinal Basil Hume, OSB, Archbishop of Westminster, to make a short pastoral visit to the Filipino community. He talked to me a few hours after his arrival from Rome, where he had a private meeting with Pope John Paul II. No official statement was issued after that meeting, but Cardinal Sin revealed that he had thanked Pope John Paul for his support and encouragement at a critical moment in the country's history. Cardinal Sin said: "Pope John Paul told me that the Catholic Church should not become involved in political affairs, but I explained that in the Philippines we only wanted to save our people from bloodshed." Cardinal Sin stressed that he had acted on his own initiative in giving the Catholic Church in the Philippines a crucial role in ending the corrupt rule of President Marcos. He said: "We told the people to see that the 7 February 1986 elections were honest, clear and fair." The Cardinal emphasized that this was a very moral thing to do, but Marcos accused the Church of interfering in politics. "We have shown that we were able to solve the problem of communism by non-violent revolution." In their strongest statement in 20 years, issued on 14 February 1986, the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines said: "In our considered judgement, the polls were unparalleled in the fraudulence of their conduct." The bishops went on to condemn "intimidation, harassment terrorism and murder." They urged Filipinos to begin a "non-violent struggle for justice." Cardinal Sin explained the vital role played by the Church-owned Radio Veritas. He said: "It was through their transmitters, given to me by the American Knights of Columbus, that the people were getting true information about the election. In order to suppress the truth, Marcos destroyed our radio station." The Cardinal continued: "They told me at the time the leaders of the military rebellion, Ramos and Enrile were about to be killed together with 700 soldiers First I called the contemplative sisters and told them to go to the chapel and pray with outstretched arms and not to eat solid food until we had won. I said that if we didn't win, they would have to fast until the end of their lives. "I then called my people (there are about 45 million Catholics in the Philippines, more than 90 of the total population) to support Ramos and Enrile. After 15 minutes we had more than one million people on the streets facing the tanks with nothing but their rosary beads. "Most important were the young girls who went up to the tanks and started kissing the soldiers, many of whom came and joined the crowds." Reflecting on his role, Cardinal Sin explained that he became an advocate of political change in the Philippines because of the strong moral, and not political, element involved. He said: "It was a risk, that a pastor has to be a prophet of denunciation and also a minister of reconciliation." Asked if he thought democracy would survive, Cardinal Sin replied: "I was afraid that if Marcos had continued in power, the communists in opposition would have become much stronger but, because of what has transpired, they are no longer effective in the Philippines. We have shown that we were able to solve the problem of communism by non-violent revolution." Cardinal Sin said that all the money and wealth taken from the country by Marcos and his family should be returned. However, he was not in favour of the ex-president being sent back to the Philippines to stand trial. Asked about the prospects for reconciliation with the communist New Peoples Army (NTA), Cardinal Sin said: "Our new President, Mrs Cory Aquino, is very sincere and honest. She has already released all political detainees. Those people who took to the hills are gradually surrendering to the new government. "Before I left home, I received a letter from the priest who had taken up arms, and I am expecting him to surrender in my house together with others." Cardinal Sin revealed that when the opposition was divided, he had told Mrs Aquino that it would be crazy for her to run for President until it was united. He said: "Mr Laurel wanted to stand for president, but I told him that Mrs Aquino would attract more support and he should stand as Vice-President. He consented and in the end they both won." The Cardinal did not accept that he had become too closely identified with the new president. He said that Cory Aquino was a good friend and he had known the family for a long time. During the past few weeks, Cardinal Sin has displayed enormous courage and very considerable diplomatic skills. In London, despite being tired and suffering from a slight fever, he answered a wide range of searching questions. Asked for a final message, Cardinal Jaime Sin paused for a moment before he replied: "I believe that the future for the Philippines is bright. We have learned from our mistakes. The Catholic Church will be there to give advice to the new President, but this does not mean we are part of the Cory Administration." Born in 19, Jaime Sin was the 14th of 16 children. His mother was Filipino and his father Chinese. Pope Paul VI created him a Cardinal on 24 May 1976 Witty and good-humoured, he enjoys talking to the media. At home his greets visitors with the words: "Welcome to the House of Sin." This article was first published in Our Sunday Visitor on 23 March 1986

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