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South Korean cardinal dies at 89

Cardinal Cheong 'wanted the Church to be the light and salt of society'

UCA News reporter, Seoul

UCA News reporter, Seoul

Published: April 28, 2021 03:35 AM GMT

Updated: April 28, 2021 03:58 AM GMT

South Korean cardinal dies at 89

Cardinal Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk was a committed pro-life advocate. (Photo: Seoul Archdiocese)

South Korea’s Cardinal Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk, former archbishop of Seoul, has died at the age of 89.

Cardinal Cheong, a towering figure in the Korean Church and former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea (CBCK), died at church-run St. Mary’s Hospital in Seoul on April 27.

He had been receiving treatment for various old-age ailments, according to a press release from Seoul Archdiocese.

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Cardinal Cheong was hospitalized in February and his condition improved by the first week of March. At his request, hospital staff removed most of the life-saving equipment from Cardinal Cheong, who could respond to people who prayed for his recovery.

He marked the 60th anniversary of his priestly ordination on March 18 when his relatives visited him.

Cardinal Cheong committed to donating his organs including his corneas upon his death.

The cardinal practiced a pastoral ministry that emphasized the values of life and family

Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung, the current archbishop of Seoul, mourned the death of his predecessor and thanked God for Cardinal Cheong’s long life of service.

“The cardinal always made mission a top priority, wanted the Church to be the light and salt of society, and practiced a pastoral ministry that emphasized the values of life and family,” Cardinal Yeom said in a condolence message posted on Seoul Archdiocese’s website.

Cardinal Yeom led a midnight requiem Mass for Cardinal Cheong on April 27. A funeral Mass will be held at Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul with a five-day mourning period.

Nicholas Chong Jin-suk was born on Dec. 7, 1931, in Seoul. He briefly studied chemical engineering before joining a seminary for priestly formation. He was ordained a priest on March 18, 1961. He obtained a degree in canon law from Pontifical Urban University in Rome.

Father Cheong was appointed bishop of Cheongju Diocese on June 25, 1970. At the age of 39, he became the youngest bishop in Korea and led the diocese until 1998.

He became archbishop of Seoul in 1998, a post he held until his retirement in 2012. He also played the role of apostolic administrator of Pyongyang, entrusted to oversee Catholics in North Korea.

From 1975-99, he was a member of the executive committee of the CBCK and from 1983 to 2006 he was president of its committee for canonical affairs.

From 1996-99, he was president of the CBCK. He attended the Special Assembly for Asia of the Synod of Bishops in 1998. From 2007-12, he was a member of the Council of Cardinals for the Study of Organizational and Economic Affairs of the Holy See. From 2006-12, he was a member of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

Since becoming a priest, Cardinal Cheong has prioritized evangelization and increasing the number of Catholic faithful in the country.

A passionate and enthusiastic reader and writer since his childhood, he authored and translated some 60 books, mostly related to canon law and catechism.

Another major pastoral priority was unification, reconciliation and peace on the Korean Peninsula

He was a pro-life advocate and strongly opposed abortion. He made the life issue a central theme of pastoral affairs as the head of Cheongju Diocese and Seoul Archdiocese

In 2005, Seoul Archdiocese under his leadership launched its Committee for Life after scientist Hwang Woo-suk triggered a national and global storm with claims of having cloned human embryos that he allegedly extracted from stem cells.

Cardinal Cheong dedicated a Mass for Life in December 2005 that sought to spread the culture of respect for life, urging human beings that they should not mistake themselves for owners of the world.

The following year, he led a Eucharistic Congress in parishes with the theme “Christ in our Lives” that emphasized the life movement.

The cardinal is remembered for being exceptionally supportive of disadvantaged people and communities. As bishop of Cheongju, he helped to establish Kkottongnae (Flower Village), the largest church-run social welfare facility in South Korea.

Another major pastoral priority was unification, reconciliation and peace on the Korean Peninsula. From 1998 to 2004, he was the head of the Korean bishops’ Commission for the Reconciliation of Korean People.

That led to the creation of the National Reconciliation Center in Paju, near the border with North Korea, in 2014. The center aims to foster better relations with North Korea and promote peace, reconciliation and evangelization.

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