Prison mates promote cause of heroic Korean War priest

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Fr. Emil J. Kapaun.

The head of the cause for the beatification of an American priest who died in a Communist prison during the Korean War says the chaplain's fellow inmates are the real promoters of his sainthood.

Father John Hotze told EWTN News on April 18 that there is great support for the cause of Korean War chaplain Father Emil Kapaun “especially among the men who were in prison with him.” 

“They have been promoting his cause of holiness and that he be awarded the Medal of Honor since they left prison in 1953.”

Fr. Kapaun’s prison mates are now all in their 80s. 

In November of 1950, Fr. Kapaun met up with soldiers besieged by Korean troops at the Battle of Unsan. The Army chaplain chose to stay with the wounded and was imprisoned at a concentration camp near Pyoktong, North Korea, where he was tortured.

For six months he ministered to other prisoners, often giving others his own food rations, and was subjected to forced labor. He celebrated baptisms, heard confessions, offered the Mass and administered last rites. The priest eventually developed a blood clot in his leg and fell ill with dysentery and pneumonia.

According to the testimony of his prison mates, he died in prison on May 23, 1951 and was buried in a common grave near the Yalu River.

Fr. Hotze, a priest from the Diocese of Wichita, Kan., says he's been personally enriched by researching the story of Fr. Kapaun who is today considered a Servant of God.

“I learned about his life, what he did and everything he went through. We have stories told by his prison mates and how he cared for their wounds.”

Since July 1, 2011, the cause has been in the hands of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.  “Our diocesis has turned in the investigation, all the documents, and all this information is now in their hands,” he said.

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