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Remains of Medal of Honor recipient Fr. Emil Kapaun identified

Published: Mar. 4, 2021 at 6:38 PM CST
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WASHINGTON (KWCH) - The remains of Kansas native, Father Emil Kapaun, a man recognized for his ministry and service during World War II and the Korean War, were identified, U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and the Catholic Diocese of Wichita confirmed.

Moran released the following statement after receiving news from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency that the remains of Father Emil Kapaun were identified:

“This evening I was notified that the remains of Marion County-native Father Emil Kapaun, a priest of the Diocese of Wichita, have been identified. Father Kapaun served as an Army Chaplain during WWII and the Korean War, and was taken as a Prisoner of War in 1951. He continued to minister to Americans as a POW before passing away on May 23, 1951.

“In 2011, I introduced legislation to bestow Father Kapaun with the Presidential Medal of Honor, which was awarded in 2013. In 1993, Pope John Paul II declared Father Kapaun a Servant of God, the first step toward sainthood. I am glad that his family has finally been granted closure after Father Kapaun’s selfless service to our nation.”

Although Father Kapaun didn’t make it home form his service in Korea, the impact he’s had on many lives is apparent, approaching 70 years after his death. He’s been recognized as a hero for his care of fellow soldiers, all the way until his final moments.

In July 2018, news of possible remains from the Korean War coming back to the U.S. gave Father Kapaun’s family hope that the priest was among them. Thursday’s announcement comes with closure, approaching three years later.

“There’s no words that can explain what the feelings are right now,” said Fr. Kapaun’s nephew, Ray Kapaun, of learning that his uncle’s remains were identified.

Ray Kapaun said he sees the breakthrough as a miracle.

“I know there’s been a lot of miracles that have been attributed to him, or are in the investigation of being attributed to him, but I think everyone sees this as a miracle,” Ray said. “Because this is so unexpected. I mean, my family, we never thought we’d see this in our lifetime.

The Catholic Diocese of Wichita said the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency identified Kapaun’s remains, concluding after a lot of research that he was among the unidentified soldiers buried in the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii.

“It was a a joyful and exciting surprise for the Diocese of Wichita that Fr. Kapaun’s mortal remains were recovered after so many years and we continue to look forward to his process of canonization in the future,” a statement from Bishop Carl A. Kemme said.

You can find more information on Father Kapaun’s story and what the Diocese calls his “Cause for Canonization,” on its website.

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