Two weeks after concluding the Year of Father Kapaun, the Wichita Diocese announced Thursday that the deceased Kansas priest is one step closer to sainthood.
Emil Kapaun, a Roman Catholic priest born and raised in Pilsen, in Marion County, has been regarded by many in the Wichita Diocese as holy and venerable since his death in a Korean War prisoner of war camp in 1951.
In November, Bishop Carl Kemme presented a 1,000-page document outlining Kapaun’s life and works – known as a positio – to Vatican officials in Rome. Father John Hotze, in charge of the local effort to elevate Kapaun to sainthood, said he got a call Tuesday that Vatican officials had approved the positio, and Kapaun’s case will move forward.
“I think it’s great news,” Hotze said Thursday. “And actually this is happening quicker than what I had anticipated.”
The latest approval is only the first step toward becoming a saint. The positio will now move onto another Vatican commission, which will review the documents to make sure they align with Catholic doctrine.
If that commission gives its approval, Kapaun’s case goes to a panel of cardinals and archbishops. The panel will review the material and make a recommendation to Pope Francis, who ultimately has the final say on Kapaun’s sainthood.
As the positio moves through the proper commissions and panels, a separate investigation into miracles attributed to Kapaun will take place. In order to be beatified and receive the title “blessed,” a person must have at least one miracle attributed to them. After he or she is beatified, another miracle must be proven to achieve full sainthood.
So far there are two miracles under investigation for Kapaun’s case. Hotze said if the priest is beatified, another miracle would have to occur and be proven in order to be used in an argument for sainthood.
It could be a long time before the diocese is able to call Kapaun “saint,” but Hotze said this first step has given them hope.
“It’s not only an affirmation of the work that has been put into it, but also an affirmation of what all of us believe we already know,” Hotze said. “That he’s a saint.”
Lara Korte: 316-268-6290