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John Baptist Wu, 77; Cardinal of Hong Kong

September 24, 2002|From Associated Press

Cardinal John Baptist Wu, who led Hong Kong's Roman Catholic Church through the sensitive transition from British to Chinese rule, died Monday in Hong Kong of complications from bone marrow cancer. He was 77.

Hong Kong's political leader, Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, said Monday that he was deeply grieved by Wu's death and expressed his condolences to the church.

"He had worked tirelessly to serve the Catholic community and made great contributions to the well-being of Hong Kong people," Tung said in a statement.

Born in 1925 on the mainland, Wu was ordained in 1952, named a bishop in 1975 and appointed Hong Kong's first cardinal in 1988.

Two years ago, Wu led a thanksgiving service attended by more than 1,000 people to mark the Vatican's canonization of 120 missionaries killed in China. Mainland officials said the canonization was an open insult.

Wu and Bishop Joseph Zen, the church's No. 2 leader in Hong Kong, have spoken in defense of the spiritual group Falun Gong, which is banned on the mainland but remains legal in Hong Kong. The church has also urged the local government to grant residency rights to mainland-born children of legal residents who were ordered to be deported in a key court ruling.

Pope John Paul II expressed his heartfelt condolences in a message to the Hong Kong diocese.

"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 message said.

Wu was the third cardinal to die this month, leaving 115 cardinals younger than 80, who are eligible to vote for a pope.

Wu is to be succeeded by Zen, a vocal critic of Beijing who has been barred from visiting mainland China since 1998, two years after he was made a bishop.

There are 347,000 Roman Catholics in Hong Kong. Under Wu's leadership, the church occasionally ventured into sensitive political territory, drawing on civil liberties guaranteed to Hong Kong when the British colony reverted to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.

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