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Sainthood cause of Kansas priest who was chaplain takes a step forward

The sainthood cause of Fr Emil Kapaun, a priest of the Wichita Diocese who was a military chaplain during the Korean War and died in a prison camp, is one step closer to consideration by the pope.

Six historical consultants of the Vatican Congregation for Saints’ Causes met in Rome recently and approved the historical documents submitted by the Diocese of Wichita on behalf of Fr Kapaun’s cause.

The documents were originally presented to the congregation as part of the “positio,” or position paper, for Fr Kapaun and were prepared by the postulator, Andrea Ambrosi, who has visited Wichita several times.

The Vatican’s consultants approved the documentation on 21st June after evaluating it for completeness and accuracy.

The “positio” is the official document that will be used to determine if Fr Kapaun lived a life of heroic virtue and sanctity. If such a determination is made, the priest will be declared “venerable,” the first of three major steps for sainthood.

The second step is beatification and the third step is canonisation. In general, each of these steps requires the church to accept evidence that a miracle has occurred through the intercession of the sainthood candidate.

Last November at the Vatican, Wichita Bishop Carl A. Kemme formally delivered the 1,066-page report on the life and holiness of Fr Kapaun to Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes.

Fr Kapaun, ordained for the Wichita diocese in 1940, served in the U.S. Army as a chaplain and died in 1951 in a Korean prisoner of war camp after heroically serving his fellow soldiers. He was awarded the Medal of Honour posthumously on 11th April 2013.

The affirmative vote of the historical consultants at the Vatican allows Fr Kapaun’s cause to move forward to the theological consultants, who will review the “position” to determine if Fr Kapaun’s writings and teachings are doctrinally sound and in harmony with Church teachings.

If the theological consultants also deliver an affirmative vote, the matter will move to a panel of cardinals and archbishops of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes.

Fr John Hotze, a Wichita diocesan priest, and the episcopal delegate of the Office for the Beatification and Canonisation of Fr Emil Kapaun, said the process may seem unending but that the naming of a saint has never and, hopefully, will never be taken lightly.

“This news cannot be perceived as anything but a great sign,” he told the Catholic Advance, Wichita’s diocesan newspaper. “This is a great step forward and recognition of the work we’ve done and of the life of Fr Kapaun, and has happened much more quickly than I had anticipated.”

Fr Hotze added that he is hopeful his cause will “proceed with speed” and soon Fr Kapaun will be honoured as a saint of the Catholic Church.

Picture: U.S. Army chaplain Fr Emil Joseph Kapaun, who died on 23rd May 1951, in a North Korean prisoner of war camp, is pictured celebrating Mass from the hood of a jeep on 7th October 1950, in South Korea. He is a candidate for sainthood. (CNS photo/courtesy U.S. Army medic Raymond Skeehan).