The cardinal-designate, a Jesuit, was born on mainland China in 1923, said that he had returned to Beijing in 1979 to visit family members, with whom he maintains steady contacts. He noted that Catholics on the mainland now have government permission to pray for the Pope: an indication of some softening in the government's campaign to repress the loyal Catholic Church.
However, Cardinal Shan observed that heavy restrictions remain in place. He said that he looked forward to the possibility of visiting the mainland again himself, to renew the Jesuit tradition of evangelization in Asia. But he said that such a visit would probably have to wait until circumstances were "appropriate."
Cardinal Shan is the third known Chinese member of the College of Cardinals, joining Cardinal Ignatius Kung, who now lives in exile in the United States, and Cardinal Jean-Baptiste Wu of Hong Kong. It is widely believed that at least one of the cardinals named by Pope John Paul II in pectore is also Chinese.