Taipei (AsiaNews) - Since yesterday evening all news programs have spoken of little else, other than the Cardinal of Taiwan, Paul Shan Kuo-Hsi （單國璽) who died yesterday afternoon, Wednesday, August 22, 2012. Today, his photo appeared on the front page of all the major newspapers of the island, with many feature articles on the inside pages. President Ma Ying-jiou (馬英九) and many people of politics, culture and education have provided abundant and touching interviews about him.
In addition to the "people of importance," even the "simple people" have a great memory of him. JI had only left the house when an elderly lady, seeing his photo on the newspaper that I was carrying under my arm said, "the cardinal did so much for Taiwan." A Monk from a local Buddhist temple adds more details: "He always cared for and was involved in the cause of interreligious dialogue, becoming a constant reference point in Taiwan, and the Chinese world in general. Here in Taiwan his work with Buddhist Masters Xingyun (星雲法師) and Sheng-yen (聖嚴法師) was appreciated by all, it helped us a lot and he in turn received a lot of help, for example in the construction of the Mount of Beatitudes (真福山) in Kaohsiung. "
In fact through his work with lay
Christians and with many friends belonging to different religions, he vigorously
fought in defense of the weakest in society, starting with the aboriginal
tribes of Taiwan and the poorest workers. "I
remember when he was bishop of Hualian and Kaohsiung then, he offered many
scholarships to young Aboriginal priests to encourage them to deepen their
formation in Europe," says, father Rao, pastor of Holy Family in Taipei, still
He was very active in the media and at the end of the seventies he was president of Kuangchi Program Service (光启 社) Taipei's television production service, which boosted educational programs for children and young people, characterized by a strong commitment to make visible the poverty and social injustices of the time. Mr. Chen, now retired, was the artistic director of two major programs when then Fr. Shan began as a television director. "Poor him, he came straight from school, he was director of St. Ignatius High School here in Taipei, and knew nothing about television!" moved Mr. Chen said. "The same day he arrived I went into his office with a brick, a simple brick like the ones we use to build walls, and I put it on his desk asking, 'What is this?' and he said, 'a brick'. 'Only a brick?' I asked him, and he said: 'I understand, you need a new TV studio!', 'No!' I almost yelled at him, poor man, 'this brick can inspire thousand stories here in TV what you need most is creativity!.' And what struck me then was his humility, in fact, the following year, he agreed to go to England for a specialization course on television production. Plus we built the new television studio, travelling all over Europe to gather the necessary funds. He also learned to use simple language, accessible to the people, abandoning the exclusively cultural terminologies that he had acquired working in schools. "
Father Jerry (丁神父) well known in Taiwan and China through his television programs, confirms as much: "I think those years here with us had a huge influence on him, since then he has always been very friendly with the media in general and urged other bishops to do the same! I remember for example that on the occasion of the death of Mother Teresa we were the only two from the Catholic world, to offer testimonials and comments to the Chinese-language media about the life and mission of this great woman. He was a bit 'disappointed by the lack of participation of his colleagues:' I encourage them to be more constructive ' he repeated that to me often at the time".
Fr. Jerry points out "the extraordinary visibility among the common people that the Cardinal reached after hearing about being sick." Five years ago he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Rather than allowing this to get him down or morally defeat him it was the beginning of another fruitful part of his life. Recently, in a conversation between friends, he recognized that the disease had allowed him in the past five years, to meet people of different religious beliefs and from many different backgrounds, even more than in the previous 50 years.
The book entitled "huo chu ai (活出愛)" was published in 2009 and is an encouragement to readers "to give life and love." In it he talks about his experience as a cancer patient, which made him even more known and loved. Since then he has given many workshops and conferences to bring his witness. In another book called "gao bie sheng ming zhi lu" (告別生命之旅) in which he speaks about his "path of farewell to life" after learning the diagnosis from doctors, and his returning to the conditionof a child. First on a physical level, then in his having to depend on others for everything.
In his reflections he overturns the question: "Why is this happening to me?" to "Why should not it happen to me?" in seeing his disease as an opportunity and a gift from God, which allowed him to open up to others feeling himself as "a friend to all" as a result of his own physical weakness. This is undoubtedly the most precious spiritual heritage that Cardinal Shan Kuo-Hsi leaves the young people of Taiwan.