HONG KONG, SEPT. 23, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal John Baptist Wu Cheng-chung, a key Church leader in China, died today after a long struggle with multiple myeloma, a bone marrow cancer, according to ecclesiastical sources. He was 75.
He had been bishop of Hong Kong since 1975. In a telegram sent in memory of Cardinal Wu, John Paul II expressed his “immense gratitude for his fruitful and untiring cooperation with the Holy See and with me personally throughout my pontificate.”
“I am certain that his memory will live on in the community he so faithfully served, inspiring all to ever greater generosity in Christian living,” the papal message states.
The Pope sent the telegram to Hong Kong’s Coadjutor Bishop Joseph Zen, who succeeds the cardinal.
Hong Kong’s political leader, Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, said he was “deeply grieved'” by Cardinal Wu’s death and expressed his condolences to the Church.
“He had worked tirelessly to serve the Catholic community and make a great contribution to the well-being of Hong Kong people,” Tung said in a statement.
John Baptist Wu was born on March 26, 1925, in Shui-tsai, Diocese of Kaying, southern China. After completing primary and secondary school, he studied theology and philosophy at the Academy of Theology in Southern China. He was ordained a priest on July 6, 1952, in Hong Kong.
Given the restrictions imposed on him by the Communist regime, and having earned a doctorate in canon law in Rome and carried out his pastoral ministry in Hong Kong, he went to the United States — New York, Boston, Chicago — to gain practical legal experience.
In 1957 he was sent to Taiwan and was assistant pastor of the Diocese of Hsinchu in Tou Fen and Ta Hu.
He also was chaplain of the “Legio Mariae” (1957-1959). He then became parish priest of Hsin Miaoli. He was elected for two consecutive terms as member of the presbyterial council, and was also a member of the liturgical commission. From 1971-1972, he was moderator of the diocesan synod in Hsinchu.
He was chosen bishop of Hong Kong on April 5, 1975, and was ordained the following July 25.
In 1985 he lead a delegation to Beijing and Shanghai at the invitation of the Chinese government. It was the first visit to China made by a bishop of Hong Kong since 1949.
The following year, 1986, he went to his native city Guangdung where, after 40 years of separation, he was able to visit his elderly mother and other relatives.
He was made a cardinal by John Paul II in 1988. On July 1, 1997, Hong Kong returned under the sovereignty of the People’s Republic of China.
In a letter to the bishop of Hong Kong, dated June 24, 1997, John Paul II stated: “This service of evangelization and practical solidarity must not cease, and indeed it will surely increase now that the Diocese of Hong Kong is called, even more than before, to be in the midst of the Chinese nation the ‘city set on a hill’ and ‘the lamp on a stand.’ In the new historical circumstances, the Catholic community’s mission will be to accompany all on the path towards further gains in social advancement, peace and solidarity.”
John Paul II has asked Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, to preside over Cardinal’s Wu’s funeral service in Hong Kong on Saturday.
With his death, the College of Cardinals now has 171 cardinals, including 115 who could vote in a conclave for a new pope.
Last week another Asian cardinal, Vietnamese native François Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân, died at age 74.