A commitment to inter-religious dialogue and to "peaceful coexistence" between the state and the Church characterize the work of Cardinal Paul Shan Kuo-hsi SJ, Bishop of Kaohsiung (Taiwan). The prelate was born on 3 December 1923 at Puyang, Hopeh, in China in the diocese of Taming. He was ordained to the priesthood on 18 March 1955 in Baguio in the Philippines. He took the four solemn vows in Thuduc in Viêt Nam on 2 February 1963.
In 1976, he was appointed Episcopal Vicar of Taipei. On 4 March 1991 he was appointed Bishop of Kaohsiung and he took possession of the new diocese on the following 17 June. A member of the Pre-Synodal Meeting (1996-98), he was reporter-general of the Special Assembly for Asia of the Synod of Bishops which took place in Rome from 19 April to 14 May 1998. On 21 February of the same year John Paul II appointed him as cardinal of the Title of St Chrysogonus.
He has always had a special commitment to inter-religious dialogue. He was elected President of the Association for Faith-Links between Chinese Religions, and he organized the visit to the Holy See of the Buddhist Master Hsing-Yun.
In his capacity as president of the Chinese Regional Bishops' Conference for several terms, he coordinates pastoral and evangelical action of the entire Catholic Church in Taiwan with great skill. In 1988, he convoked the National Symposium on Evangelization which set the directions for evangelization in the last years of the twentieth century.
He has focused his energies in the service of the Church on the formation in Taiwan of a well prepared laity. At the beginning of his ministry in the Diocese of Kaohsiung, the Pope named a young Taiwanese priest as his Auxiliary Bishop. Cardinal Shan named a young aboriginal priest as his Vicar General. He has established a new seminary in an isolated place to form new priests for the Church.
He is also involved in charitable works: in his Diocese he has set up the Catholic Charitable Foundation for Social Welfare, and at the national level he has promoted the creation of a Catholic Mission Foundation in Taiwan to meet the needs of Taiwanese society and to evangelize it. The Catholic Church in Taiwan is regarded as a great benefactor of the poor, the sick, the elderly, and as a great defender of exploited women, of those who are forced to work overseas, of the marginalized, of prisoners and of the cause of human life.
He has translated two books into Chinese: How To Be a Guide and Commitment and Leadership, published by Kuangchi Press. Both have become best-sellers, and the second is used in training government leaders on the island with whom the cardinal has excellent, if distant, relations. When the 28 February demonstration "for democracy" took place in Taiwan, called for by current president Chen Shuibian, Cardinal Chan said the faithful were "free to choose" and he told AsiaNews: "The bishops did not intervene in the matter but Christians and Catholics participated in both demonstrations or they did not participate". In many of his interventions he has consistently highlighted the urgent need of reconciliation between China and Taiwan and he has always defended freedom of worship in the People's Republic of China.
There are 320,000 Catholics in Taiwan, equal to 1.4% of the total population.