H.E. Stephen Cardinal Kim Sou-hwan, Archbishop emeritus of Seoul, died at the age of 86 on February 16, 2009. As the first and longest-serving Cardinal of Korea, he devoted himself to the Catholic Church and Korean people. In accordance with his will, his corneas were transplanted to two patients, giving them a new light.
Born to a faithful Catholic family in Daegu on May 8, 1922 as the youngest son of eight children, he was ordained a priest in 1951 during the Korean War and nominated as a Bishop in 1966. In 1969 he was nominated as a Cardinal by H.H. Pope Paul VI.
Cardinal Kim became a symbolic figure in Korea, as he braved the political authorities during the era of military dictatorship from the 1960s through the 1980s. Many Koreans, both Catholics and non-Catholics, asked him for advice and help, whenever they were oppressed and had to endure trouble. The Myeongdong Cathedral of Seoul has served as a haven, especially for the student and labour activists for democracy.
Along with incumbent and former presidents of Korea, more than 200,000 people waited in line to express their sorrow over his death during the 4 days for an official call of condolence.
The solemn Mass of Christian burial was celebrated at Myeondong Cathedral of Seoul on February 20, 2009, presided over by H.E. Nicholas Cardinal Cheong Jinsuk, Archbishop of Seoul.
In his memorial address read by Cardinal Cheong, H.H. Pope Benedict XVI said, "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."
In his homily, Cardinal Cheong said, "Cardinal Kim faithfully practiced his mission received from God, as the 'apostle of love and peace', for all Koreans, not just for the Catholics. Just his presence was enough for us to find great comfort, especially when we had to bear suffering and hardship during the difficult times." Then he gave thanks to God for sending us Cardinal Kim who was a great man of the times.
In his memorial address read by Mr. Han Seung-soo, Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea, Mr. Lee Myung-bak, President of the Republic of Korea, praised the nobel personality of Cardinal Kim saying, "I would like to see him off, remembering him as the revered senior of our society, who was our great support and guide." Then he continued, "with his words and deeds, he left us a message of thanks, charity and sharing. Now he wants us to forgive and love each other, and to extend our helping hand to our needy neighbours, with a soul of gratitude for what we have."
After the Mass, Cardinal Kim was laid to rest in Yongin Catholic Park Cemetery, next to his predecessor Archbishop Paul Marie Ro Ki-nam who died in 1984.