Posted by: rbbadger | February 17, 2009

Stephen Cardinal Kim Soo-hwan dies

The Archbishop Emeritus of Seoul, Stephen Cardinal Kim Soo-hwan died yesterday at the age of 87 by Korean reckoning and 86 by Western reckoning.  He served as Archbishop of Seoul for a long time, having been appointed in 1968, been named a cardinal by Pope Paul VI in 1969, and retired in 1999.  The Cathedral has been packed all day long with those paying their respects to the late cardinal.  And those attending just did not include members of Korea’s Christian communities.  The Supreme Patriarch of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism was there along with quite a few Buddhist monks. 

Cardinal Kim was the sort of churchman whose influence was not confined to his own religious community, one which was very small at the time he became a bishop.  Catholics now make up 10% of the population of Korea.  Rather, his influence extended to the whole country.  Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations has referred to him as the “consicience” of the nation. 

He was an outspoken proponent of democracy.  When students protesting for democracy in 1987 sought and obtained refuge in Seoul’s Myeong-dong Cathedral, the police notified him that they were coming to the Cathedral to seize the protestors.  Cardinal Kim basically let it be known that in order to get the students, they would have to shoot through him, the priests of the cathedral, and the nuns.  The government blinked first and the students eventually left quietly. 

However, unlike many on Korea’s left, he was willing to speak out forcefully against North Korea’s government and the human rights abuses there.  Was the Cardinal a perfect bishop?  No human being ever could be.  But he had firm principles and stuck to them.

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