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Humble servant of the Church turns 90

Cardinal Shan has inspired thousands with his courage

Cardinal Shan, second from right, at a birthday celebration on December 5 Cardinal Shan, second from right, at a birthday celebration on December 5
  • Margarita Chen, Kaohsiung
  • Taiwan
  • December 8, 2011
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Cardinal Paul Shan Kuo-hsi, who turned 90 last week, has many reasons to celebrate.

Apart from his many contributions to the faithful in Taiwan, he also witnessed one of the most important events for the Church in recent times, the signing of an agreement on higher education that normalized qualifications between the Holy See and the Taiwan government.

On the basis of that historic agreement, Taiwan will now recognize 161 pontifical universities and academies around the world.

In other words, titles and degrees conferred on students by Fu Jen Catholic University’s theology department will be recognized locally.

Moreover, religious students from the mainland will also benefit, as they will be eligible to study in Taiwan.

“I am very happy to see this agreement sealed. It allows more Chinese clergy from Taiwan, mainland China and other regions to come to study and do research. This is the best gift to me,” said Cardinal Shan after the signing of the agreement on December 2.

The prelate also took the opportunity to turn his birthday into a fund-raising opportunity.

The event, held on December 5 and hosted by Kaohsiung faithful, raised money for the Mount Beatitude complex, a pastoral center that reached the end of its first phase of construction last year.

“I don’t want to leave a heavy burden to my successor Archbishop Peter Liu Cheng-chung,” Cardinal Shan said.

Archbishop Liu described the project as the third of three dreams of Cardinal Shan and urged the faithful to help fulfill them.

But the influential prelate continues to battle with poor health. During Mass last month, the archbishop told the congregation that the cardinal’s cancer has continued to spread. He was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2006.

During the Mass, Cardinal Shan knelt in front of 400 people in attendance and asked for forgiveness.

“I invite you to pray for me, to give thanks to God and to beg for His forgiveness of my sin. I also beg forgiveness from every one of you for not being perfect.”

This gesture of humility caught many Catholics by surprise and moved them to tears. Cardinal Shan said following the Mass that his cancer had inspired him to do a lot more for the Church than he had accomplished during his 60 years of priestly service.

“Being born during wartime has enriched my life experience. I always feel the loving hands of God guiding me through all kinds of dangers,” he said.

“Cancer is very common nowadays. Some people feel it is like having a death sentence without any preparation. I think it is God’s will to have me to comfort the other patients. In return, I also earn a lot of care and blessing from others.”

Cardinal Shan also began a series of life lectures after his cancer was diagnosed, and they have earned much respect from local society.

“Cardinal Shan is a legend in Taiwan. His life story inspires many people,” said Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou after he presented the prelate with a gift during Mass at the Holy Rosary Minor Basilica-Cathedral in Kaohsiung last month.

Related reports:

Barred prelate looks at mainland
Mainland students favor Catholic study
Taiwanese give thanks for new pastoral center

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