The remains of a Kansas Catholic Priest who died in a prisoner of war camp during the Korean War while ministering his fellow prisoners are back home and a Mass of Christian Burial will be held this week for Fr. Emil J. Kapaun.
According to the Catholic Diocese of Wichita, the mass will be held at Hartman Arena on Wednesday at 10:30 AM.
Fr. Kapaun’s remains arrived in his hometown of Pilsen Saturday.
The Kapaun family has decided the remains will be interred in a crypt inside the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. This will not only provide a safe and secure location for them, but will also allow opportunities for Catholics and many others inspired by Fr. Kapaun’s life to be able to visit and venerate this priest, whose cause for sainthood progresses.
In 1993, Fr. Emil Kapaun was named a “Servant of God”, which signified that his cause for canonization could begin. Fr. Kapaun’s placement in the Cathedral will be a temporary location in the event that the Church recognizes him as a saint in the future, in which case a dedicated shrine or chapel might be erected to hold his remains and commemorate his life.
Fr. Kapaun died as a prisoner of war during the Korean War. He was accounted for on March 2nd of this year.
After serving in World War II, Kapaun returned to active duty in the U.S. Army and served in the Korean War with the 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division.
On November 2nd, 1950, Kapaun’s unit was near Unsan when they came under heavy fire from Chinese forces and received orders to withdraw. Approximately a quarter of the unit’s soldiers made their way back to friendly lines. The others, including many wounded soldiers, became trapped. Kapaun volunteered to stay with the wounded, and was soon captured and taken to a Chinese-run prison camp on the Yalu River’s south bank known as Camp 5.
Even after he became gravely ill, Kapaun continued to serve as a spiritual leader for his fellow prisoners, encouraging them to faithfully await their release and regularly defying his captors to bolster the collective morale of the POWs.
Due to prolonged malnutrition, Kapaun died on May 23, 1951, after which the other POWs buried him in one of the camp’s cemeteries.
As part of the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement, Kapaun’s remains were among the 1,868 who were returned to U.S. custody, but they were not able to be identified. At a White House ceremony on April 11, 2013, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Kapaun the Medal of Honor for extraordinary heroism and selflessness.
Kapaun’s remains had rested among the 867 remains buried as “Unknowns” at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP) in Hawaii. His remains were disinterred and identified as part of DPAA’s Korean War Disinterment Project, a seven-phase plan begun in 2018, to disinter all remaining Korean War Unknowns from the NMCP.
Reservations for Fr. Kapaun’s vigil and funeral service are sold out. The funeral Mass will be live streamed on the diocese YouTube channel.