The late Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan
The late Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan was an icon of Korean society during his lifetime and remains so two years after his death.
A symposium held by the Stephen Cardinal Kim Institute on October 28 at the Catholic University of Korea (CUK) examined the cardinal’s pivotal spiritual contributions to society.
In his keynote address, John Park Il-young, a CUK professor, said that prior to the first plenary assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conference in Manila in 1971, Cardinal Kim told all Korean diocesan ordinaries that “the Church should be the yeast of the society, to fully commit itself in building humanized society.”
He added that under Cardinal Kim’s leadership, the Korean Catholic Church had played a vital role in South Korean democratization during the 1970s and 1980s.
Park told the estimated 50 attendees of the symposium that among Cardinal Kim’s most enduring accomplishments was his call for “reducing the large gap between the rich and the poor, and actualizing distributive justice.”
He added that Cardinal Kim has served “to defend democratic values of our civil society beyond the wall of the Church,” thereby earning respect for the Catholic faith as a source of political justice and spiritual liberation.
Rosa You Jung-weon, a lecturer at Suwon Catholic University and a presenter at the symposium, praised Cardinal Kim for his efforts on behalf of the poor.
She said Cardinal Kim saw that economic justice could only be realized by changing “structures,” not just by giving alms.
Fr Raphael Cho Jeong-hwan, also a professor at CUK, told attendees that Cardinal Kim always emphasized the importance of human rights, saying the “violation of human rights is not only to insult humans but to blaspheme Christ and God.”
The institute was established last year to study the life, thoughts and practice of the first cardinal in Korea.
Cardinal Kim retired from the ordinary running of the Seoul archdiocese in 1998 after 30 years of service.
His death in 2009 was greeted with deep sorrow by members of various faiths in Korea because of his contributions to democracy and social harmony in the country.
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