FUNERAL MASS FOR JOHN BAPTIST WU
HOMILY OF CARDINAL CRESCENZIO SEPE
"I waited, I waited for the Lord
We are all gathered today in this beautiful cathedral to express our affection to our good Pastor for the last time and to pay our final respects to a wise Leader, His Eminence Cardinal John Baptist Wu, on his departure from us.
No words can express our admiration for him and no grief can tell our sorrow for the great loss we all feel today. The Holy Father has appointed me to be His Representative and preside over this Requiem Mass for His Eminence, the Bishop of Hong Kong. Twenty-seven years of his ministry as head of one of the greatest and most lively Churches in Asia, make myself, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in Rome, grieve sorrowfully along with you.
For your consolation and my own, I convey to you the special Apostolic Blessing of our Holy Father John Paul II, along with his prayer for the Church in Hong Kong on the departure of its holy and worthy Pastor. In the letter sent to him recently, on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of his Ordination to the Priesthood, the Holy Father recalled in admiration all the service he had rendered to God and His people in a life totally dedicated to his pastoral duties. He praised him for his admirable humility, for his unswerving loyalty to God and his Church, in silence and in prayer as in kindness and concern for his flock.
What the Pope wrote in this letter of 6 July, is the best tribute to a man who, while being an outstanding person, was nonetheless a humble member of the Kingdom of Heaven in which all men with a childlike heart are called to enter. He had a great love for his country, which he dearly cherished and he prayed fervently for its peace and well-being. As a son of this great nation of China in which he was born more than 77 years ago in the County of Ng-Wa, Province of Kwangtung, His Eminence Card. Wu was for the world the Christian model of how the children of God in Hong Kong and on the continent love and serve their nation and care for its great culture and glorious history. His Hakka origin was part of his nature and his cultural heritage was totally Chinese, both blending perfectly with his study and meditation of Catholic doctrine and the practice of Christian tradition. He was a Chinese perfectly at ease with his Christian faith in which none of the great moral tenets of his culture were lost. He was a great Christian and a great Chinese, a devout Cardinal of the Roman and Universal Catholic Church and a faithful son of the most ancient civilization on earth. In fact, as the Pope remarked: "Historically, in ways that are certainly different but not in opposition to one another, China and the Catholic Church are two of the most ancient "institutions" in existence and operating on the world scene..." (Message on the 4th centenary of the arrival in Beijing of Matteo Ricci: Rome, Gregorian University, 24 Octeber 200l).
Above all we remember him as a man in love with his Ministry to his people. A man of few words but of great concern and dedication, both much in evidence during his pastoral visits to the Parishes of his Diocese of Hong Kong. His joy was visible in these moments of encounter with his children and more than his words, at times in faltering and insecure Cantonese, it was his heart that spoke.
His imposing figure also gave a feeling of reassurance and his smile conveyed a message of hope and encouragement, making everybody feel along with him, like children with their father in the common happiness of a great family. He was fond at times of referring to the Chinese doctrine of "Wu-Wei", which he explained as the way of doing things by refraining from doing them.... I was told how he would sit through long hours of meetings listening without speaking a word: but he was alert to every opinion, pondering every idea, welcoming every suggestion.... And things were done, initiatives were taken, projects were realized in full communion of minds and hearts. Is it not perhaps here that we find the secret of the great development of the Church in Hong Kong and of its success in all its endeavours, be they charitable, educational and of course religious and moral.
Perhaps looking back, we realize now the great leadership Card. Wu provided to the Diocese in his unique style of humble guidance. Indeed he was a great Leader, as a Christian Bishop is supposed to be, and a great Master, the way a Chinese Teacher instructs his disciples. For all that, the whole Church expresses its gratitude to him and prays the Lord to grant him the reward promised to a faithful servant.
The words of Psalm 40 that we have heard, are most apt for expressing the ideals and the life of this outstanding Bishop. But they also reveal to us another more real and profound aspect of his existence: "How blessed are those who put their trust in the Lord". That is the secret that made his life a great success in the eyes of God and of men! Card. Wu was first and foremost a man of prayer, of meditation, and of great "trust in the Lord". The serenity of his face, the amiable smile welcoming all people known and unknown, the tranquillity of his demeanour in the face of all hardships made him the icon of the Good Shepherd, who in times of stress and sorrow spreads love and peace around him. He was a man with his "feet upon a rock", the "rock" which is "God" (Dt 32,4) and the "rock of Peter" (Mt l6,l8), whom he was called to follow in his ministry. He knew that the Church built on this rock, by the promise of Christ, would never fail, no matter how strong the oppression and sorrowful the pain. He was indeed a man of God, and he had placed his trust in Him. Admirable is the steadfastness of his faith and exemplary his fidelity to the "rock" of the Church, as confessor of its doctrine and provider of its grace.
Why then should we be grieving today as for an irreparable loss and a journey with no return of our dear Shepherd? We in fact know and believe what our Saviour Jesus Christ once proclaimed: "I am the Resurrection and the Life: Anyone who believes in me, even though that person dies, will live, and whoever lives and believes in me, will never die" (Jn 11,25). St Paul reminds us: "Christ has in fact been raised from the dead, the first fruits of all who have fallen asleep.... Just as all men die in Adam, so all men will be brought to life in Christ..." (l Cor 15,20-23).
For this reason the Church calls the "Rites of the Dead" the "Rites of Passage", because for us Christians, death is the transition from this life to Life Eternal. St John of the Cross, a great saint and mystic, wrote that "at the evening of our life we shall all be judged by love" (Avisos y Sentencias, 57). Our brother Bishop Wu has nothing to fear in his judgment, because he lived a life of love! We should rejoice with him; because we are convinced that before us here today, we have a saint worthy of heaven and a model of earthly life. He in fact lived his years in sorrow and pain, labour and sickness ... but above all he lived them all in LOVE! He is surely worthy now to hear the voice of the Father, like the Master of the household in the Gospel's parable, telling him: "Well done, good and trustworthy servant; You have shown you are trustworthy in small things; I will trust You with greater; come and join in Your master's happiness" (Mt 25,21).
And so be it!.... To our comfort now, and to his glory and happiness for ever.