Kung was the Roman Catholic Bishop of Shanghai, and ApostolicAdministrator of Souchou and Nanking since 1950. Despite his advancedage, he retained these posts until his death. He was ordained a priest in1930 and a bishop in 1949. He was the firstnative Chinese bishop of Shanghai.
Kung was elevated to the rank of cardinal by PopeJohn Paul II in 1979, while serving a life sentence in isolation inChina. The nomination was made "in pectore," meaning that only thepope, and no other, not even Kung, was aware of it. Thenomination was made public after Kung was freed from prison, onJune 28, 1991.
Kung's story is that of a faithful shepherd and a heroicwitness to his faith who refused to renounce his beliefs despite intense Chinese government pressure to do so. In the monthsleading up to his arrest in 1955, Kung refused offers of safepassage out of China to stay by his flock. His example of fidelity hasbeen one of the lynchpins in the underground Catholic community inChina. He become an international symbol of the fight for religious freedom.
Kung had only served five years as bishop of Shanghai before hisarrest, which stemmed from his refusal to renounce his loyalty to the Vatican and instead join the communist leadership's officially sanction Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.
In that time, he had already become notorious to the authoritiesfor the respect and devotion he received from Catholics. In defiance ofthe Patriotic Association, Kung personallysupervised the Legion of Mary, a lay group that promotes the venerationof the Virgin Mary. Hundreds of Legion of Mary members, includingmany students, were arrested and sentenced to 10 or more years of hardlabor.
Despite these persecutions, Kung declared 1952 a Marian Year inShanghai. For that entire year, there was a round-the-clock rosary heldbefore a stature of Our Lady of Fatima, which was carried to all theparishes of the diocese. At the end of the "pilgrimage," Kung ledthe rosary at Christ the King Church as armed policemen looked on.
After the rosary, Kung prayed, "Holy Mother, we do not ask you fora miracle. We do not beg you to stop the persecutions. But we beg you tosupport us who are very weak."
Knowing his arrest was imminent, Kung trained hundreds ofcatechists to pass on the faith to future generations. The arrestfinally came on September 8, 1955, when he and more than 200priests and church leaders were seized.
Months after his arrest, he was taken to the dog racing stadium ofShanghai to publicly confess his "crimes." Thousands were present in thestadium as he was pushed to a microphone, hands bound behind his back,and wearing only Chinese pajamas. Instead of a confession, though, theauthorities heard, "Long live Christ the King! Long live the pope!"
The assembled croud responded, "Long live Christ the King! Long liveBishop Kung!" The authorities quickly removed him from the scene.
In 1960, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. The night before histrial, the chief prosecutor offered him his freedom in exchange for hiscooperation with the Patriotic Association.
Kung spent 30 years behind bars, much of it in solitaryconfinement. He was not permitted to receive visitors, letters, or moneyto buy essentials. In 1985, he was released from prison to serve anotherten years under house arrest. After two and a half years of housearrest, he was officially relased, though he was never fully exonerated.
In 1988, his nephew, Joseph Kung, obtained permission to escort him to the U.S. for medical care.
Shortly before his release from prison, Kung was permitted toparticipate in a banquet in honor of Cardinal Jaime Sin of Manila. Theauthorities carefully separated the two so that Kung would nothave direct contact with Sin. However, during the dinner,Sin invited each attendee to sing a song of celebration.
Kung chose "Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram aedificabo Ecclesiam meam"(You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church) as a signthat he remained faithful to Rome.
When Pope John Paul II presented Kung with his red hat in theJune 29, 1991 in the Vatican, the then 90-year-old Kungraised himself up from the wheelchair, put aside his cane and walked upthe steps to kneel at the foot of the pontiff. Visibly touched, the pope lifted him up, gave him his cardinal's hat, then stood patientlyas Kung returned to his wheelchair to the sounds of aseven-minute standing ovation from 9,000 guests.
Cardinal Kung spent the last 12 year giving interviews andhomilies to call attention to conditions in the Catholic Church inChina. As a result, in March 1998, the Chinese government officiallycancelled his passport, making him an exile from his homeland.