A week after the 65th anniversary of Fr Emil J. Kapaun’s capture in North Korea, the bishop of Wichita in the US state of Kansas formally presented a report on the Army chaplain’s life, virtues and fame of holiness to the Congregation for Saints’ Causes.
Bishop Carl A. Kemme of Wichita and a small delegation from the diocese met on 9 November with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the congregation, and other officials to hand over the 1066 report known as a “positio”.
During the Korean War, Fr Kapaun, a priest of the Wichita diocese, and other members of the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, were captured by Chinese troops in North Korea on 2 November, 1950. The priest died in a North Korean prison camp on 23 May, 1951.
President Barack Obama presented the Medal of Honour posthumously to the war-hero priest in a White House ceremony in 2013, but the men who were imprisoned with Fr Kapaun and the faithful of the Diocese of Wichita had been honouring him long before that.
“Since the day his fellow prisoners of war in the Korean Conflict (1950-1953) were liberated after their long and cruel incarceration, during which Fr Kapaun was instrumental in providing to his fellow soldiers unparalleled pastoral care, word of his saintly virtue has been spreading and continues to our day,” said a letter Bishop Kemme wrote and delivered to Cardinal Amato.
“I’m very honoured and humbled to be part of this moment,” Bishop Kemme said after handing over the “positio”, which is based on a long diocesan investigation of Fr Kapaun’s life, writings and eyewitness testimony, including with prisoners who survived the camp.
Andrea Ambrosi, the postulator or promoter of the cause, said it took 12-13 months to write the volume, which should go to a team of Vatican historians for review in April.
Archbishop Marcello Bartolucci, secretary of the congregation, told Bishop Kemme and his delegation that if the historians have no questions and believe the biography and the information about the circumstances of Fr Kapaun’s death are complete, the report would go to a commission of theologians.
Under normal circumstances, Archbishop Bartolucci said, the theologians would not get to the report for at least 10 years, but since Fr Kapaun is the first sainthood candidate from the Wichita diocese, it gets precedence. He is hoping to get the report on the commission’s calendar for late 2017.
“While you are waiting – a year or two – you can work on the miracle,” the archbishop told the bishop.
In fact, Bishop Kemme told him, the diocese already has identified and is working on the documentation for two healings. One of them could be the miracle needed for Fr Kapaun’s beatification.
While Bishop Kemme was at the Vatican, supporters of Fr Kapaun’s cause were praying. A special novena for the beatification of Fr Kapaun began on 2 November, the 65th anniversary of his capture at the Battle of Unsan, and was to end on Remembrance Day, known in the US as Veterans Day, on 11 November.