Outspoken South Korean cardinal has died

 South Korea's first Catholic cardinal, Stephen Kim Sou-hwan died on Monday, 16 February. He was 86.

Cardinal Kim was an outspoken critic of authoritarian rule. Known for his warm smile, Kim was appointed cardinal in 1969 by Pope Paul VI and became an advocate for democracy in his country.

A spokesman for South Korean President Lee Myung-bak called Lee's death a "national loss."

In 1987 Kim allowed protesting student activists to take refuge in Seoul's main cathedral.

His efforts helped launch South Korea, which had been ruled by strongmen for more than a generation, on the road to democracy.

Born in the city of Daegu in 1922, he was one of eight children, and attended high school in Seoul. He studied philosophy at Sophia University in Tokyo in the early 1940s and at Catholic University of Korea from 1947 to 1951.

After serving briefly as a parish priest and as a secretary in the Archdiocese of Daegu, he traveled to Germany to study sociology.

At 46, he became the youngest member of the College of Cardinals.

Kim was an advocate of the poor and took an active part in social and democracy issues, opposing the violent suppression of labor unions.

He called for Japan to take greater responsibility for the damage it caused in its 35-year colonial rule over Korea, which ended in 1945.

During the 1987 demonstrations, as he gave refuge to student activists, he brazenly told the government: "If the police break into the cathedral, I will be in the very front. Behind me, there will be reverends and nuns. After we are wrestled down, there will be students," according to his website.

Along with serving as archbishop of Seoul for three decades until 1998, Kim led the Diocese of Pyongyang in North Korea from 1975 until 1998, though he was never able to travel to the country, which remains at political odds with South Korea.

In a statement, Pope Benedict said: "Deeply saddened to learn of the death of Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan, I offer heartfelt condolences to you and to all the people of Korea. Recalling with gratitude Cardinal Kim's long years of devoted service to the Catholic community in Seoul and his many years of faithful assistance to the Holy Father as a member of the College of Cardinals, I join you in praying that God our merciful Father will grant him the reward of his labours and welcome his noble soul into the joy and peace of the heavenly kingdom. To Cardinal Kim's relatives and all assembled for the solemn Mass of Christian burial I cordially impart my apostolic blessing as a pledge of consolation and strength in the Lord".

Source: VIS/AN

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