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Cardinal Kung Pin-Mei

Cardinal Kung Pin-mei
H.E. Ignatius Card. KUNG PIN-MEI
Bishop Emeritus of Shanghai
Friday, August 02, 1901
March 12, 2000 (Aged 98)
Cardinal since:
Saturday, June 30, 1979
Cardinal Priest of S Sisto

Cardinal Kung was the Roman Catholic Bishop of Shanghai, and Apostolic Administrator of Souchou and Nanking since 1950. Despite his advanced age, he retained these posts until his death. He was ordained priest on May 28, 1930, and ordained Bishop on October 7, 1949. He was the first native Chinese Bishop of Shanghai. He was created a Cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 1979, while serving a life sentence in isolation in China. This nomination was made "in pectore," meaning that only the Pope, and no other, not even Cardinal Kung, was aware of it. The nomination was made public after Cardinal Kung was freed from prison, on June 28, 1991.

Cardinal Kung's story is that of a faithful shepherd and a heroic witness to the faith. He refused to renounce God and the Church despite the consequences of imprisonment by communist authorities. In the months leading up to his arrest in 1955, Cardinal Kung refused offers of safe passage out of China to stay by his flock. His example of fidelity has been one of the lynchpins in the underground Catholic community in China. He has become a symbol of the fight for religious freedom.

Bishop Kung had only served 5 years as Bishop of Shanghai before his arrest. In that time, he had already become notorious to the authorities for the respect and devotion he received from Catholics. In defiance of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, Bishop Kung personally supervised the Legion of Mary, a lay group that promotes the veneration of the Blessed Virgin. Hundreds of Legion of Mary members, including many students, were arrested and sentenced to 10 or more years of hard labor.

Despite these persecutions, Bishop Kung declared 1952 a Marian Year in Shanghai. For that entire year, there was a round-the-clock rosary held before a stature of Our Lady of Fatima, which was carried to all the parishes of the diocese. At the end of the "pilgrimage," Bishop Kung led the rosary at Christ the King Church, as armed policemen looked on. After the rosary, the Bishop prayed, "Holy Mother, we do not ask you for a miracle. We do not beg you to stop the persecutions. But we beg you to support us who are very weak."

Knowing his arrest was imminent, Bishop Kung trained hundreds of catechists to pass on the faith to future generations. The arrest finally came on September 8, 1955, when the Bishop and more than 200 priests and Church leaders were taken overnight.

Months after his arrest, he was taken to the dog racing stadium of Shanghai to publicly confess his "crimes." Thousands were present in the stadium as he was pushed to a microphone, hands bound behind his back, and wearing only Chinese pijamas. Instead of a confession, though, the authorities heard, "Long live Christ the King! Long live the Pope!"

The assembled croud responded, "Long live Christ the King! Long live Bishop Kung!" The authorities quickly removed the Bishop from the scene.

In 1960, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. The night before his trial, the Chief Prosecutor offered him his freedom in exchange for his cooperation in setting up the Chinese Catholics' Patriotic Association. He responded resolutely, "I am a Roman Catholic Bishop. If I denounce the Holy Father, not only would I not be a Bishop, I would not even be a Catholic. You can cut off my head, but you can never take away my duties."

Bishop Kung spent thirty years behind bars, much of it in solitary confinement. He was not permitted to receive visitors, letters, or money to buy essentials. In 1985, he was released from prison to serve another ten years under house arrest. After two and a half years of house arrest, he was officially relased, though he was never fully exonerated. In 1988, his nephew, Joseph Kung (president of the Cardinal Kung Foundation), obtained permission to escort him to the U.S. for medical care.

Shortly before his release from prison, the Bishop was permitted to participate in a banquet in honor of Cardinal Jaime Sin of Manila. The authorities carefully separated the two so that Bishop Kung would not have direct contact with the Cardinal. However, during the dinner, Cardinal Sin invited each attendee to sing a song of celebration. Bishop Kung chose "Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram aedificabo Ecclesiam meam" [You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church] as a sign that he remained faithful to Rome.

When Pope John Paul II presented Cardinal Kung with his red hat in the Consistory on June 29, 1991 in the Vatican, the 90 year old Bishop Kung raised himself up from the wheelchair, put aside his cane and walked up the steps to kneel at the foot of the Pontiff. Visibly touched, the Holy Father lifted him up, gave him his cardinal's hat, then stood patiently as Cardinal Kung returned to his wheelchair to the sounds of a seven-minute standing ovation from 9000 guests in the Audience Hall in the Vatican.

Cardinal Kung has spent the last twelve years giving interviews and homilies to call attention to the conditions in the Catholic Church in China. As a result, in March 1998, the Chinese government officially cancelled his passport, making him an exile from his homeland.

In his "Mission" magazine in 1957, Bishop Fulton Sheen wrote: "The West has its Mindszenty, but the East has its Kung. God is glorified in his saints."

Biographical material from

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