Catholic Culture Resources
Catholic Culture Resources

Chinese Cardinal Ignatius Kung Pin-mei Dies in Stamford, USA

by Pope Saint John Paul II


Cardinal Ignatius Kung Pin-mei, Bishop of Shanghai and Apostolic Administrator of Suzhou, China, died on Sunday, March 12, 2000 at the age of 98. This is the text of the Holy Father's message released on March 13, 2000.

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L'Osservatore Romano



Publisher & Date

Vatican, March 15, 2000

Deeply saddened to learn of the death of Cardinal Ignatius Kung Pin-mei, I ask you kindly to convey my heartfelt condolences to the Kung family and to all present at the solemn Mass of Christian burial. I join all of you in giving thanks to almighty God for the late Cardinal's priestly and episcopal ministry in the Diocese of Shanghai, his heroic fidelity to Christ amid persecution and imprisonment and his outstanding witness of communion with the universal Church and the Successor of Peter. Commending the soul of this noble son of China and of the Church to the infinite mercy of our heavenly Father, I pray that, having shared so deeply in Christ's sufferings, he may now receive the unfading crown of glory which the Chief Shepherd reserves for those who have followed him faithfully to the end. At the same time I renew my fervent prayer for the intentions of the Church in China, so close to the late Cardinal's heart. To all I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of consolation and strength in our Lord Jesus Christ.


Ignatius Kung Pin-mei was born in P'ou-tong, China, on 28 August 1901 to a family with a long Catholic tradition. He was the oldest of four. His family originally came from Daong Mou-ghiao, a rural centre on the banks of the great Yangtze River.

After completing his studies at Xujiahui Catholic School in Shanghai, he entered the diocesan seminary in 1919, where he studied literature, philosophy and theology and remained until 1928. After two years of pastoral experience, he was ordained a priest on 28 May 1930.

He was immediately entrusted with numerous pastoral tasks including student chaplain and headmaster of various schools in Siongkang and Shanghai. He worked with the students of Aurora University, and from 1934 to 1936 preached the Gospel in Fenyang.

On 9 June 1949 he was appointed Bishop of Suzhou and was consecrated on 7 October. On 15 July 1950 he was transferred to Shanghai and appointed Administrator of the Dioceses of Suzhou and Nanjing (Nanking).

These were very difficult years for Chinese Christians. They were already persecuted, and the first arrests and deportations had also begun. The Bishop stayed close to the faithful entrusted to him, trying to comfort and strengthen them in the faith. "You must stop nourishing deceptive human hopes", he said. "If we deny our faith, we will die and there will be no resurrection. If we stay faithful, we will still die, but there will be resurrection".

On the evening of 8 September 1955 he was arrested with many priests and lay people. He was subjected to harsh privations and many began to fear for his life. On 16 March 1960 it was officially communicated that Bishop Ignatius Kung Pin-mei and 13 priests accused of "high treason" would be tried as "counter-revolutionaries". His was the worst punishment: he was sentenced to life imprisonment. From that day on, every year the Bishop requested the authorities to review his trial. He never admitted the accusations against him and repeatedly stated that he was "in prison simply for being a Bishop of the Catholic Church".

He remained in prison for 30 years, without ever yielding to the authorities' efforts to make him join the Patriotic Church and abandon his fidelity to the Pope. By his humility and steadfast faith, he became the symbol of fidelity to God and to his Church throughout China. He was released in July 1985, but remained under "house arrest" until 6 January 1988, when his "political rights" were reinstated by the Shanghai court.

"During my years in prison", he said, "I prayed and I acted as the Bishop of this city, sharing my people's sufferings. With God, time is never wasted".

At his first Consistory, 30 June 1979, Pope John Paul II chose him as a Cardinal "in pectore". His appointment was published at the Consistory of 28 June 1991, when he was given the Title of St Sixtus. On 1 July the Holy Father received the new Cardinal with his relatives, stating that his desire to have him as a member of the College of Cardinals "is the expression of my heartfelt esteem, openness and good will towards the great Chinese family". The Pope also said that he had "given witness by word and deed, through long suffering and trials, to what constitutes the very essence of life in the Church: participation in the divine life through the apostolic faith and evangelical love". And he added: "Your Eminence's elevation to the College of Cardinals is a tribute to your humble perseverance in this necessary communion with Peter" (L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 8 July 1991, p.9).

© L'Osservatore Romano, Editorial and Management Offices, Via del Pellegrino, 00120, Vatican City, Europe, Telephone 39/6/698.99.390.

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