Pope Benedict XVI has expressed “deep sadness” over the passing of Cardinal Paul Shan (單國璽), 88, on Wednesday.
“I offer you, the clergy, the religious and lay faithful of those dioceses and the entire Church in Taiwan, my condolences and the assurance of my prayers,” the pope said in a letter to Bishop Peter Liu (劉振忠) of the Kaohsiung Catholic diocese.
The contents of the pope’s letter of condolence were aired on Vatican Radio and published in the city’s official L’Osservatore Romano.
The pope said he recalled Shan’s years of dedicated service in Taiwan, his ministry as bishop of Hualien and as president of the Chinese Regional Bishops’ Conference.
“In joining you and all who mourn him, including his Jesuit confreres, I commend his priestly soul to the infinite mercy of God our loving Father,” the pope wrote.
Shan was appointed as the first cardinal in Taiwan in 1998 by the late Pope John Paul II.
Born in Henan Province, China, in 1923, Shan came to Taiwan — leaving some relatives behind — with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime when it was defeated in a civil war with the Chinese Communist Party.
After he retired in 2006, Shan was diagnosed with lung cancer. He fought the disease with remarkable optimism, touring Taiwan to share his philosophy in more than 200 speeches.
Shan passed away on Wednesday in a hospital in New Taipei City (新北市). His funeral will be held next Saturday in Kaohsiung.
The National Immigration Agency (NIA) has approved the applications of Shan’s relatives in China to attend his funeral in Taiwan.
“Out of humanitarian consideration and in appreciation for the contribution that the late cardinal made to the nation, we have sped up the approval of his relatives’ applications to visit Taiwan,” NIA Director-General Hsieh Li-kung (謝立功) said yesterday. “In his lifetime, Shan actively showed his concern for disadvantaged people in this country, whether they were nationals or immigrants, and it is saddening to hear he has passed.”
Hsieh said that when the Straits Exchange Foundation forwarded the request from Shan’s relatives — including his 86-year-old sister, his two nephews and the husband of one of his nephews — to travel to Taiwan to attend his funeral, the NIA responded immediately.
“We explained the immigration process to them, told them what documents to prepare and promised to give them as much help as possible,” Hsieh said. “When we received the applications today [Friday], we gave them a priority review and approved them right away.”
According to the Act on Permission for Entrance of People of the Mainland Area into the Taiwan Area (大陸地區人民進入台灣地區許可辦法), Chinese nationals with relatives in Taiwan may apply for a visitor’s visa between one month and six months after the death of the relative, the director-general said.
“We have learned that Shan’s 86-year-old sister is not in the best physical condition, so an NIA officer will assist her at the immigration checkpoint when she arrives,” Hsieh said.