Posted : 2009-02-20 17:57
Updated : 2009-02-20 17:57

Have We Mourned Like This Before?

The funeral Mass of Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan is presided over by Cardinal Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk under the authority of Pope Benedict XVI at Myeongdong Cathedral, Friday. About 800 attended the mass including leaders from religious, political and cultural circles.
/ Joint Press Corps

By Kwon Mee-yoo
Staff Reporter

Thousands of citizens gathered to say goodbye to the late Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan and pay their respects to the first cardinal of Korea at his funeral Mass, held at Myeongdong Cathedral in central Seoul, and his burial place in Gyeonggi Province.

The main hall of the cathedral was limited to only 800 people, but some 10,000 citizens watched the funeral from outside via giant screens.

Religious leaders from Protestantism, Buddhism, Won-Buddhism and Cheondoism took up the first-row at the funeral Mass.

Monk Wontaek from Haein Temple said, ``I hope Cardinal Kim, the spiritual leader of Korea, takes a kind interest in us in Heaven.''

Italian Ambassador Massimo Andrea Leggeri also attended the Mass. ``I came to the Mass because I want to honor his good nature,'' he said.

Gong Ji-young, a celebrated novelist and Catholic, said, ``Cardinal Kim left us new `eyes' in many aspects. All these people waiting to pay their respects to the late Kim shows how much we needed someone to depend on.''

Park Bi-ho, 42, arrived in Myeongdong at 6 a.m. He had visited the cathedral for the five days preceding the funeral as the cardinal lay in state, arriving there early in the morning and returning home between 9 and 10 p.m.

``I saw the cardinal being placed into the cedar coffin, Thursday. It was snowing as if Heaven was blessing Kim's last moments. I was moved that he only had rosary beads in his coffin, simple and frugal, as his life was before. I will live for other people without greed like Cardinal Kim,'' Park said.

Eighty-year-old Jeong Il-hwa also came to see the cardinal's last moments before the public. She said, ``I come today again because I feel sorry for missing the coffin rite, Thursday. He was a great priest. I feel like I am losing a family member.''

Citizens who couldn't make it to the cathedral watched the funeral Mass on television. The viewer rate marked 19.2 percent, according to an aggregated total of the three major broadcasting stations, KBS, MBC and SBS.

Heo Ye-jin, 20, a university student and Catholic, watched the mass on television. ``I visited the cathedral, Wednesday, and cried a lot. I wanted to go and see the mass, but I couldn't. But I watched it all on TV instead. I couldn't forget his words, `You can step on me','' she said.

``You can step on me, before you can take away the students'' is a famous saying of the late cardinal ― words uttered in 1987, when police came to the cathedral to arrest student activists seeking refuge from former President Chun Doo-hwan.

The crowd began to cry when Kim's coffin was moved outside on its way to the Catholic Priests' Cemetery in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province. Female Catholics held their veils in a show of respect to the cardinal.

Sohn Myeong-suk, 50, who watched the cardinal's hearse leaving the cathedral, said, ``I feel as if Kim is already in Heaven and saying the Mass with us,'' as she wiped away tears.

Arriving at the cemetery around 1 p.m., Kim was buried next to Archbishop Paul Marie Ro Ki-nam. His grave is small and simple, 2.5 meters long and 1.5 meters wide. His tombstone will bear his pastoral motto and his favorite phrase from the Bible's Book of Psalms, ``The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.''

A woman in her 70s, who came from Bundang, Gyeonggi Province, was waiting at the cemetery. ``I stayed at my sister's last night so that I could see the burial. I wanted to say goodbye to him for the last time,'' she said, shedding tears.

Some brought placards with a picture of Kim smiling and bearing farewell remarks. ``I hope everyone finds peace here today,'' the cemetery's head groundsman said.

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