By His Eminence Paul Cardinal Shan, S. J.
Archbishop of Kaohsiung, Taiwan
March 18, 2000
In his Letter to the Hebrews, St. Paul said: "Remember your leaders who spoke the Word of God to you; consider how their lives ended, and imitate their faith." (Heb 13: 7)
Our beloved Cardinal, whom we remember today as the leader "who preached the sacred words of God to us," was our good shepherd and spiritual leader, and a powerful witness to our Christian faith. His ardent love of God's words, his fidelity to Jesus Christ and to his Church, his loving protection of his flock, and his heroic life of blood and tears truly deserve our meditation and imitation. I would like briefly to introduce to you his devotion to the Gospel, his total fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church, and his loving protection of his flock.
Cardinal Kung's devotion to the Holy Gospel:
Ever since his ordination to the priesthood on May 28, 1930, Cardinal Kung always regarded preaching the Holy Gospel as his top priority, whether he was working in the parish or in the school. To this day, his parishioners and students still remember his enthusiasm when he preached the Word of God. His preaching and nurturing laid a strong foundation for their faith. The fact that many faithful could keep the fullness of their faith when the Church was under the most severe persecutions must primarily be the result of, besides the grace of God, the then Father Kung's leadership and preaching.
Father Kung's devotion to the Gospel and his outstanding priestly life was recognized by the Holy See. When China was imminently facing persecution, Father Kung, on October 7, 1949, accepted the Holy Father's request and was ordained Bishop of Soochow and later the Bishop of Shanghai. After his episcopal ordination, knowing that the Church would be facing persecutions soon, Bishop Kung promoted intensive efforts with all clergy to preach the Word of God and to develop a strong spiritual life among his faithful. In the short 5 years when the bishop still had some degree of freedom, he made the Diocese of Shanghai a model diocese for the whole of China. Indeed, Bishop Kung became the spiritual leader of the whole of China. The 1953 New Year greetings delivered at a Youth Rally reflected the feelings of the faithful in the Diocese: "Bishop Kung, in darkness, you light up our path. You accompany us during this treacherous journey. You sustain our faith and the tradition of the Church. You are the foundation rock of our Church in Shanghai."
Cardinal Kung's fidelity to Jesus Christ and to His Church:
The atheistic communist government could no longer tolerate the outstanding achievements of the Shanghai Diocese during the five short years. On September 8, 1955, the government arrested Cardinal Kung together with more than two hundred priests and lay leaders. A few months after his arrest, the Cardinal was taken to a mob "struggle session" in the old Dog Racing Stadium in Shanghai. Thousands were ordered to attend and to hear Bishop Kung's public confession of his "crimes." The mob was utterly quiet. With his hands tied behind his back, and wearing a Chinese criminal tunic, he was pushed forward to the microphone to confess. The bishop very calmly cried out: "Long live Christ the King. Long live the Pope!" The crowd responded immediately, "Long live Christ the King. Long live Bishop Kung!" Bishop Kung was quickly dragged away in a police van. Henceforth, the government dared not stage another public trial for Bishop Kung.
In 1960, before Bishop Kung was sentenced to life imprisonment, the chief prosecutor asked for his cooperation by accepting the leadership of the autonomous Chinese Patriotic Association. Bishop Kung replied, "I am a Roman Catholic Bishop. If I denounce the Holy Father, not only would I not be a Bishop, I would not even be a Catholic. You can cut off my head, but you can never take away my faith." These few words earned him the sentence of life imprisonment.
The crime of Bishop Kung was his faith to Jesus Christ and to the Pope, Jesus Christ's representative on earth. Although he has suffered indignity, insults and 30 years of inhuman treatment during imprisonment, his fidelity to Christ and to the Holy Father, Christ's representative on earth, was only strengthened. Shortly after Bishop Kung was released from jail and placed under house arrest, Cardinal Jaime Sin, who was on a friendship visit to China, requested to meet with Bishop Kung. As the government did not want Cardinal Sin to meet with Bishop Kung alone, a banquet was arranged. Bishop Kung and Cardinal Sin were seated at the opposite ends of a long table and separated by more than 20 Communist officials and bishops of the Patriotic Association to ensure that they had no chance to exchange words privately. Close to the end of the dinner, Cardinal Sin suggested that each person should sing a song to celebrate. When the time came for Bishop Kung to sing, he sang in Latin "Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram aedificabo Ecclesiam" (You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church). With this song, Bishop Kung conveyed to Cardinal Sin a message: that after 30 years of captivity he remained faithful to and in communion with the Pope.
Cardinal Kung's loving protection of his flock:
Since his episcopal ordination on October 7, 1949, Cardinal Kung dedicated himself totally to the service of his flock. During the five years before he was jailed, he worked day and night for his faithful.He visited all parishes to encourage the faithful. He visited religious communities to urge them to cultivate the faith of the faithful and to strengthen the catechetical training. He organized and strengthened parish activities, and especially encouraged the training of the Legion of Mary and of other missionary work.
When Cardinal Kung saw evil elements being infiltrated into Catholic schools and communities, he was very vigilant, keeping watch on those awaiting for the opportunity to slaughter his flock, and prayed day and night for his flock. After he went to jail, the Cardinal remembered his flock and prayed endlessly for them. During his twelve-year exile, he longed to return to Shanghai to be with his flock. Now that he is in heaven, he certainly will not forget his flock. We also hope that by the Cardinal's powerful intercession before God, the Church in China will enjoy its well-deserved freedom, thereby spreading the Word throughout China.
Our beloved Cardinal, the loyal servant of God, the brave soldier of Christ, the protector of the Church, the good shepherd of his flock, finally accomplished his mission. Using St. Paul's word, the Cardinal could certainly say: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on a merited crown awaits me..." (2 Tm 4:7-8)
Cardinal Kung was called home by God on March 12 at 3:05 am to enjoy his eternal reward. It is quite natural, of course, that we are very sad in losing a good shepherd and a teacher. However, to those of us who have faith, death is only the end of life on earth. It is the beginning of the eternal life. We believe that our deeply respected Cardinal Kung is now sharing the eternal glory and happiness with God. There, he will never be persecuted, will never grow old, never get sick and never die. There, he is closer to us and to his beloved China. Before God, he will pray for us. We also pray that God glorify his faithful servant and brave soldier by an early canonization so that the Cardinal will be honored throughout the universal Church as a model for the persecuted faithful. He is truly a "dry" martyr, one who did not succumb to pressure and was not colluded by wealth.