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Remembering South Korea’s cardinal of democracy

SEOUL (SE): Some 3,000 people gathered in Myeongdong Cathedral to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the death of South Korea’s first cardinal and most respected spiritual leader, Stephen Cardinal Kim Sou-hwan, the Committee for Communications of Archdiocese of Seoul, reported on February 16.
 
In its press release, the archdiocese said that a memorial Mass was celebrated by Andrew Cardinal Yeom Soo-jung, together with bishops and priests from South Korea, followed by a commemoration ceremony which featured speeches by Archbishop Alfred Xuereb, apostolic nuncio to South Korea, and Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-joong, head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea. 
 
A speech by South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, was read by Kim Yong-sam, the vice-minister of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
 
“This commemorative Mass today is not only just to (remember) him. Even in the many difficulties and challenges all of us are undergoing in everyday life, we all should try to inherit his message of love and gratitude engraved in his last words ‘Thank you, love each other’,” Cardinal Yeom said in his homily.
 
Hailed by many as the father of democracy in his native land and the custodian of human rights, he did not hesitate to challenge the government in the dark days of dictatorship and military rule in the 1970s and 1980s. 
 
“You will have to trample me first,” he told riot police in June 1987, when they tried to enter Myeongdong Cathedral to arrest students who were resisting the military regime.
 
The press release of the archdiocese recalled that Cardinal Kim always spoke for the poor, the weak, the needy and the vulnerable while insisting that the Church should focus more on pastoral activities for the poor.
 
Following his death on 16 February 2009, a record 400,000 people lined up to honour and remember him (Sunday Examiner, 22 February 2009).
 
The Archdiocese of Seoul prepared various events and programmes to commemorate Cardinal Kim during 2019. They include a photo exhibition, a relic exhibition, an academic symposium and a special Mass for peace and reconciliation of the Korean people.
 
Cardinal Kim, who was elevated as the first Korean cardinal by Pope St. Paul VI in 1969, and was archbishop of Seoul from 1968 to 1998, was not only a respected religious leader for all Catholics in Korea but also a social and spiritual leader for all Korean people.

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