Vatican investigator Andrea Ambrosi thinks Emil Kapaun has a real shot at being named a saint by the Catholic Church in a few years.
As a lawyer, he says this with a few caveats attached:
He has not yet closely studied all 8,268 documents that will be shipped to Rome now, documents that tell the story of Father Kapaun’s deeds and sacrifices in the Korean War. He will spend the next two years studying them as he writes a report to the Vatican.
“But he saved so many people’s lives, lived his final days in a prison camp, died so young . . . already by itself, it all says something great about him that you don’t need to read. You know it.
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“He showed that there was not just a devil working on the battlefields of the war, but something else.”
Ambrosi on Friday took part in the Mass and the ceremony at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Wichita that closes the Wichita diocese’s investigation on Kapaun. Ambrosi himself helped tie a big red ribbon onto the top of the 3-by-3-foot box that will now be sent to Rome.
If Kapaun is beatified, it will take one more recorded “alleged miracle” — other than the four the diocese has already reported — to elevate the former Pilsen, Kan., farm boy to sainthood, Ambrosi said. He would become the third American-born saint.
The process, if Kapaun achieves sainthood, could take four to five years. But Ambrosi is confident that the documentation on Kapaun’s case is far more compelling and detailed than other cases he has seen.
Ambrosi, speaking Italian, said through his translator and assistant, Madelaine Kuns, that he has spent 37 years investigating hundreds of reported miracles all over the world involving potential saints. He was leaving Wichita this weekend to go to Montreal to investigate still another case. Only six or seven of these people are now saints or about to be.
One reason he’s excited about Kapaun’s candidacy is that it is unique compared with the hundreds of other cases he’s investigated. It is much more action-packed and detailed than most of the other cases he’s investigated or that are currently pending for the Vatican to decide.
Most of the cases he has looked at involve “very holy” priests and nuns who have miracles attributed to them. But the Kapaun story, he said, is much bigger and involves far more deeds of heroism, sacrifice and action.
About Kapaun’s chances, he said, “I’m not worried.”
He also thought it “incredible” that Kapaun has such a vocal and devout following in Wichita. Several Catholic parishes and many parishioners pray for Kapaun’s intercession with God every week at Masses, and many people call upon his intercession in prayers when loved ones become ill.
Ambrosi will study the documents, which include dozens of interviews, letters and testimonials from prisoners of war from the North Korean prison camp where Kapaun lived for seven months before he died.
After that, he will hand over his “posito” to the Vatican’s College of Cardinals. A posito is as detailed and as rigorously researched as any advanced thesis in higher education.
After that the documents and his posito will be evaluated. There will be more work required, and another miracle will need to be found.
But if all goes well, the pope in four to five years might decide whether a well-remembered Kansas war hero becomes remembered for something more.