24 February 2009

Death of Cardinal Kim of South Korea

The late Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan of Seoul was highly respected in the Republic of Korea. The Archdiocese of Seoul has more than 1,200,000 Catholics out of a population of more than ten million.

A report on Ucanews shows how people saw him as a true pastor, even when he opposed them. More than 400,000 paid their respects during the Cardinal’s wake. Among them were some former presidents, including the country’s first, and I think only, Catholic president, Thomas More Kim Dae-jung. I didn’t know until now that his baptismal name was ‘Thomas More’. I wonder if his parents imagined that their son, carrying the names of the patron of politicians and lawyers, would one day be president? He too, like his illustrious English namesake, spent time in prison when Cardinal Kim used to visit him. However, unlike the saint, he survived.

The Columbans have been in Korea since 1933 and many of them knew Cardinal Kim well. He was aware of the importance that sport plays in the lives of Irish Columbans. The major Gaelic Football and Hurling competitions are between the 32 counties, ironically divisions created by the English. The Dublin teams in these two sports, along with their followers, and indeed all natives of the city and county, are known as ‘Dubs’. On one occasion when he was going to Ireland one of my confreres, a fellow ‘Dub’, instructed the Cardinal to convey the message ‘Up the Dubs’ when he visited our headquarters in Ireland. He faithfully carried out his mission.

The Ucanews report shows a bishop in touch with the lives of ordinary people and one who gained the respect of politicians to whom he stood up in the matter of human rights.

May this faithful priest rest in peace.

Photos: Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan celebrating Mass for people with leprosy at St Lazarus Village in Anyang on 29 May 2005 and, two weeks earlier, visiting Holy Family Child Adoption Center in Seoul.

The UCANews report has links to related stories about the death of Cardinal Kim.

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