Cardinal Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk, former archbishop of Seoul, died April 27. He was 89 years of age.
Church officials said the cardinal passed away of old age at 10:15 p.m. at a Seoul hospital where he had been since February due to an unspecified ailment.
A report from Yonhap news agency said the former archbishop had always expressed his intention not to receive life support treatment even as he previously managed to overcome critical illnesses.
The report said the cardinal agreed to donate his organs, including his corneas, upon death.
A Requiem Mass was held after midnight at Myeongdong Cathedral, the seat of the Seoul Archdiocese, by Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung, the incumbent archbishop.
The body of the late cardinal was laid in a glass coffin before the altar.
“Cardinal Cheong gave out everything he had to churches and the poor. He donated his organs to devote himself to helping the weak,” said Cardinal Yeom during the Mass.
“He was always free from material things and he was unconstrained,” said the prelate, adding that Cardinal Cheong was warm-hearted, considerate and caring.
Funeral rites for the late cardinal will be held at the cathedral on May 1. He will later be buried in a Catholic cemetery in Yongin, on the southern outskirts of Seoul.
Born in 1931 to a Catholic family in Seoul, Cardinal Cheong entered the Catholic University of Korea in 1954 where he earned a bachelor’s degree in theology.
After his 1961 ordination, he served for seven years in Seoul and taught students at a Catholic high school.
In 1968, he went to Italy to study at the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome where he got his master’s degree in canon law.
Upon his return to South Korea, he was appointed the youngest Catholic bishop in Korea at age 39.
From 1996, he led the Catholic Bishops Conference of Korea for three years.
He was named archbishop of Seoul in 1998 after Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan stepped down. He served in the post for 14 years and retired in 2012.
In 2006, Cardinal Cheong was appointed cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI, becoming the second Catholic cardinal in Korea after Cardinal Kim.
Known as an expert in canon law, he led the project to translate the 1983 Code of Canon Law into the Korean language. The Korean edition was approved by the Roman Curia in 1989.
He also published 15 volumes of commentary on the Code of Canon Law.
Catholics comprise 11.2 percent of South Korea’s population of 52.9 million.