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Homily

by His Eminence J. Francis Cardinal Stafford

Personal Envoy and Representative of Pope John Paul II

March 18, 2000


I am privileged to represent Pope John Paul II in the celebration of the funeral Mass for Cardinal Ignatius Kung. He was a son of China and of the Catholic Church. The Pope describes him as "this noble son of China and of the Church." He gives thanks to God for the Cardinal's heroic fidelity to Christ and his outstanding witness of communion with the universal Church and the successor of Peter. It is noteworthy that the word "noble" is employed to describe the Cardinal's relation to his homeland and to the community of Christ's disciples - this noble son of China and this noble son of the Church. The two go together as they must. A noble son of the Church is always a noble son of his native land.

The early Church would have spontaneously named the Cardinal a Confessor of the Catholic faith. Because of his love of Jesus Christ and of the people entrusted to him, he was evicted from his diocese and eventually from his native land. The Cardinal's century-long experience of faith teaches us that the life of the Christian in the modern world, especially of a bishop, is always a kind of eviction, a taking away of shelter, of being without a roof.

His experience of eviction was radical. Cardinal Kung lived as a prisoner in his native land for thirty years. Yet every Shepherd, each in his own way - usually sooner than later - discovers that he is part of the pervasive weakness of a universe fallen through sin. Every bishop has been delivered over to darkness. There he lives hidden in Christ for sake of and in place of sinners. In fact for Cardinal Kung much of those thirty years in prison were spent in solitary confinement.

The church being catholic has many apostolates. The Cardinal's vocation, like all Shepherds, was to bear relentless witness to the truth. Sometimes such witness seems inconvenient. Because he bore witness to the truth of Christ and of the Church, the truth disturbed business as usual. Bearing a relentless witness to the truth he was a living testimony to the reality of what Pope John Paul II has been talking about when he described the twentieth century as a century of confessors and martyrs.

For the Bishop of Shanghai the Eucharist became even more transparently what it has always been, an anticipated Parousia, "In the presence of the angels, I sing of you, O God." In the 1950's it was determined that the Catholic Church in China should not be given life from this Shepherd. So he was placed under an iron seal. But his enemies had not counted on the Spirit. The keys of the iron cell of the Cardinal fell upon the soil of the freedom of his native land. His tears fell upon the soil of the freedom of his native land. The hidden breath of the Spirit unified all. His eviction, his arrest, his iron cell, his isolation, his tears - all were united with the word and the blood.

Even now, they go side by side, united by the hidden breath of the Spirit. One can describe the Church in China as a nation baptized with the baptism of blood so that in the future she may pass through the baptism of other trials. A holy people cannot be born of sword and coercion alone, but of the word and of the holy Body and Blood.

The Cardinal lived his last years in Connecticut and experiences the generosity of the people of this State, of this local Church and of his own family. Wallace Stevens, a Connecticut poet and convert of Catholicism, died just a month before the Cardinal's arrest in 1955. He spoke of the spiritual climate of the twentieth century as being "a new ice-age." He caught something of the experience of the Christian faith in that climate with these words, "Crispin was washed away by magnitude." In the 98 years of his life, Ignatius Kung "was washed away by magnitude." He was washed away by the magnitude of God, of Christ, of the Catholic Church, of the Petrine ministry and of his own country.

There was a son of China named Ignatius Kung. Through him his native land saw that it was bound to heaven. China now lives under the shadow of a magnitude. We can ask no more of a Catholic bishop. We now ask of God that through death the Cardinal may rest in the light and peace of Christ.