DAILY CATHOLIC    WEDNESDAY     April 28, 1999     vol. 10, no. 83


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      This new feature that we introduce today will spotlight each member of the Conclave. We find this necessary as our dear Sovereign Pontiff Pope John Paul II grows older, clinging to hope, as we join him, of seeing the light of the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart with the dawn of the new millennium - the Jubilee Year 2000. How much longer this 264th successor of Peter has left on this earth only God knows for sure, but His Divine Mercy is evident in allowing him to be with us this long for he truly is a saint for our times, truly Christ's Vicar on earth in these waning days before the glorious Reign of the Sacred Heart, the Time of Peace, the Era of the Eucharistic Presence, the New Pentecost, the Second Advent, the Age of the Holy Spirit. What 1999 will bring we have no idea, nor does anyone else, but with John Paul II at the helm, we feel much more secure in knowing God's Will will be done. Nevertheless, we want to preview the future Pope whether that be soon or much, much later, for no one lives forever and eventually one of those prelates will be selected as the 265th successor of Peter. This will give the reader a better insight into the man whom the Holy Spirit will move the conclave to choose. Thus we bring the reader vignettes on each cardinal in alphabetical order gleaned from the Catholic Almanac, Inside the Vatican and other sources.

49.   Cardinal Ignatius Gong Pin-mei

          The oldest living prelate in the Church today is China's Cardinal Ignatius Gong Pin-mei whose life spans the century of Popes. He was born on August 2, 1901 during the papacy of Pope Leo XIII in P'ou-tong which is within the Diocese of Shanghai. At the age of 29 he became a priest on May 28, 1930 and worked as a missionary priest in various Chinese schools and provinces until June 9, 1949 when Pope Pius XII appointed him Bishop of Soochow, a position he officially took over on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary that same year. Less than year later the Holy Father moved him to the position of Bishop of Shanghei. Five years later on September 8, 1955 the Chinese communist regime under Chairman Mao Tse-tung imprisoned him and after five years of kangaroo courts and stern treatment, he was unfairly sentenced to life imprisonment on March 16, 1960 despite the pleas for mercy from Pope John XXIII. Incarcerated for thirty years as a living martyr for the faith of Chinese Catholics everywhere, he persevered as a living saint never kow-towing to the government's demands and his persistence and prayers paid off in July 1985 when he was paroled and pardoned and all his political rights restored, but he was not permitted to function as a Bishop.

          Pope John Paul II had not forgotten this jailed prelate of distinction, bestowing on him the highest distinction - that of the cardinalate in the Holy Father's first Consistory of June 30, 1979 but, in order to protect Cardinal Gong Pin-Mei, it had to be in pectore which means it could not be revealed until he was safely in the United States in 1988 and his name was publicly announced for the Consistory of June 28, 1991 where he was formally invested with the red-hat and received the titular church of St. Sixtus. Even though he resides in America for his own safety, he remains the Bishop emeritus of Shanghai and Apostolic Administrator of Soochow at the unheard of age of 98 years young!

          Like the deceased Cardinal Mindzenty who was also imprisoned by the communists, Cardinal Gong Pin-Mei has become a living symbol of faith for Catholics everywhere as he joined the persecuted Catholics in standing up to the communists rather than fleeing and leaving his flock. With precious little time left on this earth, this holy Chinese prelate, the epitome of perseverance that spans a century of the Catholic Church in China, presently resides at Our Lady Queen of the Clergy Home at 128 Strawberry Hill Avenue, Stamford, Connecticut.

April 28, 1999       volume 10, no. 83


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