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Protestants testify for Kansas priest's sainthood

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- A Roman Catholic priest from Kansas who is being considered for sainthood in part for his heroics during the Korean War is getting much of his supportive critical testimony from non-Catholics, which a local expert says adds authenticity to the process.

The Vatican is sending one of its top sainthood investigators to Wichita this weekend to examine more evidence in Emil Kapaun's candidacy for sainthood. Kapaun, a native of Pilsen in Marion County, died in a North Korean prison camp in 1951.

Most of the men who were prisoners-of-war with Kapaun were Protestants, and another is a lapsed Catholic who left the Catholic church years ago, The Wichita Eagle reported (http://bit.ly/15Z37MU ). Rev. John Hotze, the Wichita Diocese priest who has collected evidence about Kapaun's heroics for the Vatican investigation, said having non-Catholics testify in a sainthood investigation is a big plus.

"It adds to the authenticity," he said. "Catholics are familiar with saints and with the canonization process. ... Generally with Protestants, all that is foreign to them."

The former POWs told investigators that Kapaun was killed by the guards not only for rallying them to resist communist brainwashing but for defying camp guards who banned all religious activities.

"He was an inspiration to everyone in a desperate group reduced to living dog-eat-dog," former POW Robert Wood said this week. "He reminded us by his example that we all have a duty to each other and to our God. He was a light in a very dark room."

The same POWs also spent decades asking the U.S. Army to award Kapaun the Medal of Honor, which President Barack Obama awarded in April.