2009.02.17 07:17

'Thank You'

'Thank You'


In this October 1989 photo, Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan, left, exchange greetings of peace with the late Pope John Paul II at Yeouido Plaza in Seoul, where the 44th International Eucharistic Congress was held.
/ Korea Times File

Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan (1922-2009)

By Han Sang-hee
Staff Reporter

Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan, South Korea's most influential and prominent Catholic leader, passed away Monday at the age of 86.

Living through times of war, invasion and political chaos was difficult, but the late Cardinal held ``Pro vobis et pro multis'' (For you and for many) as his lifelong pastoral motto, inspiring not only local Catholics but Korean society and beyond.

The senior Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church and former Archbishop to Seoul was born on July 2, 1922 in Daegu, shortly after the March First Independence Movement against Japanese colonialism. He was the youngest of eight children in a devout Catholic family. He continued a tradition that ran in the family, for his grandfather John Kim Bo-hyeon died while preaching in prison, and both his parents were eager to raise at least one of their children as a Catholic leader.

After graduating from Dong Sung High school, a Catholic institution, Cardinal Kim studied philosophy at Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan from 1941 to 1944, and at the Catholic University of Korea in Seoul from 1947 to 1951. While he was studying in Japan under a scholarship from the Daegu parish, he was temporarily sent to train as a student soldier but returned to his studies when the Korean War (1950-53) ended.

In 1963, he went to Germany to study theology and sociology at Munster University and his educational drive went on as he received honorary doctorates from many universities throughout his career, including Seoul National University, Seton Hall University of the United States and Ateneo University of the Philippines.

He became the Archbishop of Seoul in 1968, gaining much responsibility and many followers. At his inauguration ceremony he said, ``We must destroy the high walls of the church and plant our churches within society,'' emphasizing reform and realistic involvement with the world. He won the support of young intellectuals, workers and ordinary citizens as he strived to build a religious community that was unafraid to support the weak and participate in building the country.

The same year, the late Pope Paul VI appointed Kim as cardinal, making him the first ever from South Korea. He was only 46 at the time, and the youngest among the 136 cardinals around the world. With the elevation of his title, he was named Cardinal Priest of S. Felice da Cantalice a Centocelle.

During the 1970s, he served as the president of the Catholic Bishop's Conference of Korea, the committee person of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Asia and the president-delegate of the Special Assembly for Asia of the World Synod of Bishops.

But he lived trued to his words of planting the church within society particularly during the politically tumultuous 1970s '80s. South Korea lived under authoritarian governments and the cardinal was vociferous in fighting their injustice. At a Christmas mass in 1971, he strongly denounced the Park Chung-hee government for trying to extend its rule and in the following year, announced a statement further blasting the administration. He recalled in his memoir later of that time that: ``I stood, unintended, at the center of human rights, social justice after having undergone various incidents … It was a hard time when I had to endure government pressure as well as criticism from within the church.'' In the 1980s, Myeongdong Cathedral was a sanctuary for students and citizens calling for democracy. The Cardinal stepped forth to block riot police from entering its compound where democracy protesters huddled. Of that time he later said: ``I thought that allowing police to enter the cathedral compound to take away students was the critical juncture that would decided whether Korea went along the path to democracy or extended military regimes.''

On May 29, 1998 Cardinal Kim left his title as Archbishop of Seoul, ending 47 years of service. Cardinal Kim was friends with neglected minorities, and constantly met with disabled people as well as condemned criminals and the homeless. He was passionate in serving and defending farmers and workers, and later launched the Catholic Urban Poor Pastorals Committee to support the poor.

As a Cardinal and moreover, a warmhearted man, Cardinal Kim pursued love, peace, democracy and the fundamental rights of Koreans, which was difficult in his earlier days.

Not only did he hope for the well being of his fellow Koreans, but he also hoped for the welfare of many more ― ``Pro vobis et pro multis.'' His lifelong pursuits were yet to be fulfilled in society, but Korea is indeed lucky and honored to have had such an inspiring religious figure.

sanghee@koreatimes.co.kr







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