The late Cardinal Stephen
By Chung Ah-young
Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan, one of the most revered religious leaders in Korea, died Monday. He was 86.
Cardinal Kim was sent to Gangnam St. Mary's Hospital due to his frail condition in July last year and had been reportedly in a critical condition before falling into a coma briefly early Saturday morning.
``Cardinal Kim passed away at 6:12 p.m. Monday while in hospital for his deteriorating health,'' an official of the Catholic Seoul Archdiocese said.
``He breathed for himself despite poor lung function due to complications from pneumonia resulting from infirmity. But he didn't feel that much pain when he died,'' Chung In-shik, a doctor at the hospital, said.
Medical staffs and officials of the Seoul Archdiocese who witnessed the hour of his death, conveyed his last message, which was ``Thank you.''
As the late cardinal left a will donating his eyes and other organs after death, his body underwent extraction surgery, according to the hospital.
President Lee Myung-bak paid his respects saying Kim's death was ``a big loss to the nation, given his role as a revered senior in every critical moment of history especially in the process of industrialization and democratization.''
He was born as the youngest of seven siblings in a poor but devout Catholic family in the southeast city of Daegu in 1922. His grandfather died in prison after being persecuted for being a Roman Catholic.
He studied philosophy at Sophia University in Tokyo from 1941 to 1944 and the Catholic University of Korea from 1947 to 1951.
He became the Bishop of Masan in 1966 and the Archbishop of Seoul in 1968. He was the youngest member of the College of Cardinals at that time. He retired in 1998.
Cardinal Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk succeeded Kim as Korea's second cardinal in 2006.
The late cardinal was renowned as an advocate of human rights and contributed to the democracy in the country where military regimes ruled in 1960s and '70s.
Kim was devoted to North Korean churches and their believers and created a religious organization in 1995 to prepare for the reunification of the two Koreas.
The Catholic Seoul Archdiocese will set up a mourning hall in Myeongdong Catholic Cathedral and will hold a funeral mass at 10 a.m., Feb. 20 there after five day of memorial masses dedicated to the late Cardinal. His body will be laid to rest in the Catholic priests' cemetery in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province.