Fr. Kapaun receives South Korea’s highest military medal

The Order of Military Merit is one of South Korea’s most prestigious awards. (Photo used with permission from

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Ceremony held in Seoul

Father Emil Kapaun posthumously received South Korea’s highest military decoration Tuesday, July 27, in Seoul.

Ray Kapaun, Fr. Kapaun’s nephew, accepted the Order of Military Merit on behalf of Servant of God Emil Kapaun from President Moon Jae-in. The award was given to the “Jesus of the Korean War,” as he is known, for his dedication to peace and freedom on the battlefields of Korea.

“Under the extreme situation of being wounded and taken prisoner, Father Kapaun showed bravery of protecting freedom, peace and his belief. Also, he celebrated Mass to pray for the enemy, which was a true practice of love,” Moon said during an award ceremony at Cheong Wa Dae. “Father Kapaun’s holy life will become a great spiritual legacy for not only the U.S. and Korea but also for all of humanity.”

Ceremony held in South Koreas’ president’s house

Kapaun’s wife, Lee, accompanied Ray for the presentation at Cheongwadae, known as the Blue House. It is the executive office and official residence of the president.

Fr. Kapaun was a priest of the Diocese of Wichita who served as a U.S. Army chaplain in World War II and the Korean War. He died in 1951 in a North Korean prisoner-of-war camp after heroically serving his fellow prisoners. His cause for canonization is now under consideration by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints at the Vatican.

Fr. Kapaun’s remains were identified by the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency from among nearly 800 unknown soldiers buried around 1956 in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii. The transfer from North Korea was the result of the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement.

Fr. Kapaun’s remains will be flown to Kansas after a Mass on Sept. 23 in Honolulu’s Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace. A vigil will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 28 at Hartman Arena. A funeral will take place at the arena at 10 a.m. the next day. Fr. Kapaun will then be buried in a tomb in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita.

Fr. Kapaun funeral tickets are becoming limited

Scott Carter, the coordinator of the Father Kapaun Guild, said only a few tickets remain for the funeral. More are available for the vigil.

Fr. Kapaun will be in front of the large crucifix in the east apse of the Cathedral, which was moved closer to the wall to make room for Fr. Kapaun’s tomb. The foundation originally under the cross is being reinforced for the 5,500 lb. marble vault.

“In addition to the liturgical events, we’re working with officials to give Fr. Kapaun all the military honors and we’re receiving a lot of RSVPs from all over the country from those in the military and lay faithful who wish to pay their respects,” Carter said. “It’s going to be a momentous event.”

Diocesan officials are preparing for visits and pilgrimages to the Cathedral after Fr. Kapaun’s remains are entombed.

“There are a lot of people excited to have him back,” he said. “There is a lot of attention now nationally and internationally.”

Carter said a Catholic publishing company in Korea is republishing The Story of Chaplain Kapaun: Patriot Priest of the Korean Conflict published in 1954 by the last Msgr. Arthur Tonne. The book was translated into Korean by a South Korean cardinal when he was a seminarian.