Cardinal Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk, the former Catholic archbishop of Seoul, has been hospitalized since Feb. 21, the office of the Seoul archdiocese said Sunday.
The 90-year-old Catholic leader was admitted to the Catholic University of Korea Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital days after reporting pain, but he can converse, the office said in a statement.
The cardinal has refused to be put on life support, and had signed papers in 2006 to donate his organs and corneas upon his death.
Days after he was admitted to the hospital, Cheong had his bank account balance donated to the soup kitchen run by the Seoul archdiocese.
Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung, the incumbent archbishop of Seoul, has reportedly told priests of Cheong’s health condition, and asked them to pray with their fellow Catholics.
Cheong has recovered from multiple operations in the past, and has continued to write after retirement from the archbishop position in 2012.
He served as the archbishop of Seoul for 14 years beginning May 1998, when he was appointed to succeed Cardinal Kim Sou-hwan.
Pope Benedict XVI made Cheong the second cardinal in Korea after Kim in 2006.
The Korean War, which broke out in June 1950 just months after Chung became a student of chemical engineering at Seoul National University, changed his course of life.
Born to a Catholic family of four generations, Chung served as a commissioned officer during the war, and decided to become a Catholic priest after seeing piles of corpses and surviving near-death moments.
Ordained to the priesthood in 1961, Cheong studied canon law in Rome while residing at the Pontifical Urbaniana University for two years through 1970, and was appointed as the second youngest Catholic bishop in Korea in 1970 at the age of 39.
The canon law expert has translated and written over 50 books since when he was a student of theology.
Of the 5.91 million Catholics in South Korea, about 1.52 million belong to the Seoul archdiocese.
South Korea has 16 dioceses, including a military ordinariate that was set up during the Korean War.
By Kim So-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org