Taipei (AsiaNews) - More than 5,000 people took part in Card Shan Kuo-hsi's funeral on Saturday. Vatican officials, two cardinals from Hong Kong and other religious as well as political leaders attended the ceremony, which was held in the gym of St Dominic High School in Kaohsiung.
During the service, Mgr Liu Cheng-chung (劉掁忠), bishop of Kaohsiung, explained that "having made a vow of poverty, Shan Kuo-hsi asked for a simple funeral without pomp and ceremony." Only candles and the crucifix were allowed, no flowers or fancy decorations were accepted.
His 86-year-old sister Shan Ai-yun （單愛雲）came from the mainland to give her beloved brother a final farewell. Mgr Savio Hon Tai-Fai (韓大輝), secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, Card Joseph Zen Ze-kiun (陳日君), former bishop of Hong Kong as well as Hong Kong's other cardinal, Mgr John Tong Hon (湯漢), were also present at the service.
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) sent a plaque in memory of the late cardinal, as a token of his gratitude for the cardinal's contribution to Taiwanese society.
Buddhist Master Xing Yun (釋星雲) also thanked Cardinal Shan for the friendship and generosity he showed to the people of Taiwan as builder of peace and a great educator. "Humble and merciful, he was a truly great friend."
Mgr Paul Russell, the delegate of the Holy See to Taiwan, read a message of deep sorrow from the Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone for the loss of the great evangeliser, a great point of reference among Chinese Catholics.
Many ordinary believers, including many Taiwanese aborigines in their traditional clothing, came from various parts of the island to pay their respects.
As bishop of Hualian and Kaohsiung, the cardinal was well known and appreciated. He was especially held in high esteem because of his tireless visits to young people and the many conferences in which he bore witness to his faith and love for life in his last few years when, already suffering from the disease that would eventually take him, he became an example of hope.
The most moving moment in the funeral came when a recorded video was played in which Card Shan spoke reassuringly to his flock. "I fought and I have no remorse for my battle for life. I have had ups and downs and I ask for forgiveness from the bottom of my heart for things I have not done well."
With his usual humour, he thanked participants, and told them, "I now lay in my coffin with my two empty hands, with which I can carry only what I accomplished in my life." (如今躺在棺材中兩手空空，能帶去的只是一生的功過而已）.
At one point, emotions became overwhelming when for the last time, the bishop could be seen and his calm voice heard for a last time.
Along with adults and senior citizens, many young people were present to show how much the cardinal had trust in them. This is a sign of great hope for the Church in Taiwan.