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[Editorial] Preserve the Spirit of Cardinal Kim

Posted February. 21, 2009 07:44,   


The late Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan was buried yesterday in a solemn ceremony at a cemetery for Catholic priests in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province. More than 400,000 people from all walks of life have visited Myongdong Cathedral to pay their final respects to the late clergyman over the past four days. No country has seen the sheer number of mourners as Korea has. Kim’s death has united the country, tearing down all the barriers among Koreans.

Cardinal Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk, who presided over the funeral Mass, said in his homily, Kim was everyone’s apostle of love and peace and a great spiritual leader of our time. The eulogy by Thomas Han Hong-soon, president of the Catholic Lay Apostolate Council of Korea, struck a responsive chord among those who reflected back on Kim’s life and achievements. Han thanked God for sending Kim to the Korean people. Now is the time for all Koreans to follow in Kim’s footsteps and realize the “spirit of Kim Sou-hwan.”

At the forefront of the late cardinals’ spirit lay his unshakable faith in a free democracy and human dignity. In 1979, a year after Pope John Paul II visited his native Poland, labor leader Lech Walesa created Solidarity, the first anti-communist trade union, and started imbuing in Eastern Europe the spirit of democracy. As the pope triggered pro-democracy movements in Eastern Europe in the 1980s, Kim did the same thing in Korea, remaining a staunch supporter of Korean democracy for life. In 1980, then Major General Chun Doo-hwan, who eventually became president after massacring protesters in Gwangju, South Jeolla Province, paid his respects to Kim on New Year’s Day. Kim said, “It’s like I am watching a Western movie. Those with guns always win.” In difficult times, the priest led the people to the path of democracy with courage and conviction.

As his pen name “Onggi” indicates, Kim embraced both the faithful and non-faithful. In the past, Korea’s Catholics made a reclusive living making onggi, or traditional Korean earthenware, deep in the mountains, as did Kim’s father. Onggi is a modest ware that contains everything, good or bad, even excrement. Like onggi, the late cardinal cared about the poor, the weak, the disabled and the incarcerated. It is time for all Koreans to show a similar love and care for the needy.

Kim’s tolerance and consideration transcended ideology, politics, region and social class, comprising the core of his indomitable spirit. He displayed a leadership of unity with calmness and peace. Kim’s last words were “Thank you for your love and please share love with others.”