Campaign launched to seek sainthood for Kansas-born priest

Posted: Friday, December 05, 2003

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) Supporters of sainthood for a Kansas-born Roman Catholic priest who died a prisoner of war in Korea have started a formal campaign to raise money and gather information the Vatican requires for canonization.

The Diocese of Wichita has endorsed the cause of the Rev. Emil Kapaun.

Kapaun grew up near Pilsen, attended Catholic school in Missouri, served his home church in Pilsen, then went off to war as a military chaplain.

He died in 1951 at a POW camp and apparently was buried in a mass grave near the Yalu River. He was 35.

As veterans returned from the war, they began telling how they owed their lives to Kapaun.

A 1954 article in The Saturday Evening Post described his exploits, braving enemy fire to rescue soldiers, staying with wounded men, being captured when he could have escaped and giving his food to fellow POWs.

Gradually, talk of sainthood arose, and in recent years intensified as Kapaun received more and more publicity.

Ten years ago the Catholic Church named Kapaun a servant of God, an initial step in the process. Now, the diocese has formally launched the canonization project.

Backers will interview anyone who knew the priest, examine his writings and develop an account of his entire life. There is a sense of urgency, because many of the soldiers who knew Kapaun in Korea are aging.

A paper will be written and sent to Rome to promote the canonization. Backers also need evidence of miracles which must have taken place after Kapaun's death, such as a person crediting the priest for aiding in their recovery from a terminal illness.

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