Priest to be awarded Medal of Honor


By Kevin Wandra

He was a soldier. He was a war hero. He was a priest. His Cause for Canonization is being considered by the Vatican. And now Fr. Emil Kapaun will receive the Medal of Honor from the President of the United States.

Fr. Emil’s heroic story will be told in the soon-to-be-released book “The Miracle of Father Kapaun,” published by Ignatius Press. One of the most remarkable aspects of his story surrounds the atypical movement of support for both his sainthood cause and his Medal of Honor award. The witnesses to both his sanctity and his bravery have come from non-Catholics, men of Jewish faith, Muslim faith and Protestant tradition, who served with Fr. Kapaun in battle or in the brutality of conditions where he drew his last breath — a prisoner of war camp.

Fr. Kapaun died as a prisoner of war, and the Korean War veterans who served with him, who were saved by him, have lobbied the Army for more than 60 years to award Kapaun the Medal of Honor for his acts of bravery. They have also spent years petitioning the Vatican to elevate him to Sainthood because of what they witnessed on the battlefield.

Roy Wenzl and Travis Heying, the authors of “The Miracle of Father Kapaun,” interviewed the dozens of men who survived the POW camp because of the courageous acts of this young priest. “They said he repeatedly ran through machine gun fire, dragging wounded soldiers to safety. In the prison camp, he shaped roofing tin into cooking pots so prisoners could boil water, which prevented dysentery. He picked lice off sick prisoners. He stole food from his captors and shared it with his starving comrades. Most of all, Kapaun rallied all of them, as they starved during subzero temperatures, to stay alive. When their future seemed hopeless, he persuaded them to hope. Hundreds died in the camps, but hundreds more survived,” recounts Wenzl and Heying.

One of the surviving POWs, who will be at the award ceremony in April at the White House, said Fr. Kapaun was murdered by Chinese prison camp guards in 1951 because he openly defied many of the camp rules, including praying the rosary with other prisoners. Mike Dowe, who like dozens of other survivors of the camp has petitioned both Congress and the Vatican for these honors, recalls that by the time Kapaun died, Protestants and men of other beliefs were praying the Catholic rosary and were openly resisting the Chinese torture.

Since opening Kapaun’s Cause for Canonization in 1993, there have already been several allegations of miracles — healings attributed to Fr. Kapaun’s intercession that defy scientific explanation. These cures have been witnessed once again by non-Catholics — doctors, in fact, who can attribute no logical answer to the healing of seriously ill or injured individuals.

The last surviving members of Fr. Kapaun’s immediate family and several of the living POWs who served with him will travel to Washington, D.C., for the Medal of Honor award ceremony on April 11.

For more information on “The Miracle of Fr. Kapaun,” to request a galley copy of the book, or to schedule interviews with the authors, please contact Kevin Wandra 404-788-1276 or [email protected].

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