Taipei (AsiaNews) - Card Paul Shan Kuo-Hsi, SJ, bishop emeritus of Kaohsiung, has died. He was hospitalised on Monday in Taipei's Gengxin Hospital for pneumonia. He had been fighting a cancer since 2006. He was 89-year-old (90 according to Chinese tradition that includes the months of pregnancy).
Sources in Beijing, Hong Kong and his beloved Diocese of Kaohsiung told AsiaNews that Catholics across China are mourning the passing of a man much loved, who dedicated his life to the reconciliation and unity of the Church in mainland China, where he hailed from.
Last June, he had tried to see his homeland but Chinese authorities denied him a visa. A priest in the People's Republic of China remembers him with great emotion.
"The last time I saw him was last year. He spoke to me about unity and reconciliation in the Church of China, stressing the uselessness of conflicts. He was concerned about the training of priests and seminarians in the mainland. With immense sorrow but great faith, he spoke to me about the visa that denied him the chance to visit his homeland, but with great wisdom, he placed everything in the hands of God."
A close observer of the issue of religious freedom in China and Taiwan, Card Shan always worked to mend relations between the Church of Taiwan and that of the mainland as well as between official and underground Churches.
When he found out that he had cancer, he resigned his post from the Diocese of Kaohsiung, but continued to offer retreats and conferences, promoting evangelisation on the island and China. His charity work brought him into contact with Buddhists.
Next October, the Tzu Chi Foundation, the largest Buddhist charity in Taiwan, was scheduled to grant him an award.
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou sent his condolences to the bishops of Taiwan.
According to the biographical notes of the College of Cardinals of the Holy See, Cardinal Shan was born on 3 December 1923 at Puyang, Hopeh, in mainland China.
He entered the Society of Jesus on 11 September 1946 in Beijing, and on 12 September 1948 he took his first vows. He was ordained a priest on 18 March 1955 in Baguio, in the Philippines.
In 1959-61, he studied for a doctorate in spiritual theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
After spending some time in Vietnam, he was named Episcopal Vicar of Taipei, and on 15 November 1979, he was appointed Bishop of the Diocese of Hwalien. On 14 February 1980 he was ordained to the episcopate and took possession of the Diocese of Hwalien.
In 1983, he was elected Episcopal organiser of the celebrations marking the 400th Anniversary of the arrival of Father Matteo Ricci in China.
On 25 January 1991, he was appointed President of the National Council of Churches in Taiwan. On 4 March of the same year, he was transferred to the Diocese of Kaohsiung and was installed there on 17 June 1991.
Appointed general relator to the Special Assembly for Asia of the Synod of Bishops, which was held between 19 April and 14 May 1998, he was also behind the invitation made to two mainland bishops to attend the Synod.
Unfortunately, the two prelates were not allowed to attend by the Chinese government. Two chairs were left empty to remind those present of those who could be there.
In that same year, John Paul II made him a cardinal. He was also a member of the Vatican Commission for the Church in China.