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Remains of Kansas priest who died in Korean War identified

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WICHITA, Kan. — The remains of a Kansas priest who is being considered for sainthood by the Roman Catholic Church for his ministry during the Korean War have been identified, U.S. military officials said.

The Rev. Emil Kapaun, of Pilsen, Kansas, died on May 23, 1951, as a prisoner of war during the Korean War. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency of the Defense Department said his remains were identified Tuesday.

Kapaun was an army chaplain in World War II and the Korean War. He was captured on Nov. 2, 1950, near Unsan, North Korea, while tending to soldiers. He continued to minister to fellow prisoners until he died of pneumonia, the Defense Department said.

Kapaun was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor in 2013. In 1993, Pope John Paul II declared Kapaun a Servant of God, the first step toward sainthood.

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“I am glad that his family has finally been granted closure after Father Kapaun’s selfless service to our nation,” Sen. Jerry Moran said in a statement Friday.

President Barack Obama presents Kapaun's Medal of Honor to his nephew, Ray, on April 11, 2013.
President Barack Obama presents Kapaun’s Medal of Honor to his nephew, Ray, on April 11, 2013.
Travis Heying/Wichita Eagle/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The Catholic Diocese of Wichita has promoted Kapuan’s qualifications for sainthood for years.

“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,” Bishop Carl A. Kemme said in a statement Friday.

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