Pope Francis this week created a new path toward sainthood. Advocates for Kansan Emil Kapaun, a current candidate for sainthood, say they don’t need to use it – yet.
Kapaun’s candidacy for the Catholic church’s highest honor has already traveled a long way down one of the older church pathways to sainthood, a Kapaun advocate says.
The new path might be a good backup plan if the first path fails, he said.
The pope on Tuesday created a new category for sainthood consideration called “offering of life.” Under that category, if a person died prematurely by putting their life on the line for love of God and neighbor, that person could become considered for beatification.
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The new category caught the attention of the Rev. John Hotze, the Wichita diocese priest and investigator who has spent years helping the Vatican investigate Kapaun – a Korean War hero and Army chaplain – for sainthood.
But Hotze said the Vatican, the Wichita diocese and Kapaun’s many friends have already put him on a promising path toward sainthood – an advocacy that has included thousands of documents and a personal plea for Kapaun made at the Vatican by Bishop Carl Kemme in late 2015.
Kapaun was a priest from Pilsen, in Marion County. As an Army chaplain, he saved lives under fire in several battles during the start of the Korean War, then rallied fellow prisoners in a North Korean prisoner of war camp.
He saved more lives, gave away his own food and died from starvation and illnesses in May 1951. President Barack Obama gave the Medal of Honor to Kapaun’s family at a White House ceremony in 2013.
Hotze wrote on the Father Kapaun website that the traditional paths to sainthood have been “through martyrdom, a life of heroic (or extraordinary) virtue, or a far-spread reputation of sanctity, especially in the case of more ancient Servants of God.”
He wrote that the Wichita diocese is seeking beatification for Kapaun, maintaining he “lived a life of heroic virtue and sanctity.”
He said the diocese has made the case for Kapaun in a collection of documents, known as a positio, delivered to the Vatican. The positio is being reviewed and the diocese is waiting to hear whether Vatican officials agree with their findings.
“If for some reason they struggle to agree that Father Kapaun lived the virtues heroically, the new pathway could be a nice safety net, as I believe he certainly meets the requirements for beatification under this new category,” Hotze wrote.
“There is no question that Fr. Kapaun laid down his life for others.”