December 2, 2011

Hero saint in process

A Catholic priest, an Army chaplain and war hero from Kansas who died while a prisoner of war during the Korean War - and is being considered for canonization by the Catholic Church - may soon be awarded the Medal of Honor.

Father Emil Kapaun will receive the honor if the Defense Authorization Act of 2012 passes a Senate-House conference committee with amendments sponsored by Kansas lawmakers. The U.S. Senate Thursday night passed its version of the bill with an amendment co-sponsored by Senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran of Kansas. A similar measure passed by the house contained an identical amendment sponsored by Rep. Mike Pompeo.

"Father Kapaun inspired many with his unshakable faith," Roberts said in a prepared statement. "His story is an inspiration to all of what it means to be a true hero. We've taken a huge step forward towards finally recognizing Father Kapaun's countless acts of heroism on behalf of his fellow soldiers."

Kapaun, a native of Pilsen, Kan., was serving in Korea as an Army Chaplain when he was captured in November 1950. He died in a prison camp in April 1951. He continued to minister to his fellow prisoners of war until his death.

When all else looked hopeless, Father Kapaun uplifted the spirits of his fellow soldiers and helped them preserver in spite of great suffering," said a statement from Moran.

Father Kapaun was born in Pilsen, Kansas in the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas on Holy Thursday, April 20, 1916. He was ordained as a Priest for the Diocese on June 9, 1940 and entered the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps in 1944. Separated from the service in 1946, he re-entered the Army in 1948 and was sent to Japan the following year. In July of 1950 Father Kapaun was ordered to Korea. On November 2 of that same year he was taken as a prisoner of war. In the seven months in prison, Father Kapaun spent himself in heroic service to his fellow prisoners without regard for race, color or creed. Ignoring his own ill health, he nursed the sick and wounded until a blood clot in his leg prevented his daily rounds. Moved to a so-called hospital, but denied medical assistance, his death soon followed on May 23, 1951.

The Diocese of Wichita and the Vatican have begun the formal process that could lead to Father Kapaun's canonization. In 1993, it was announced that Fr. Kapaun would receive the title of "Servant of God".