WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Thousands attended the funeral Mass for Father Emil J. Kapaun at Hartman Arena on Wednesday.

The remains of a Kansas priest who is being considered for sainthood were returned to his family, 70 years after he died in a Korean prisoner of war camp. His remains were not found until March of this year.

“We are here today to provide for father what was not provided for him 70 years ago, a mass of Christian burial,” said Bishop Carl A. Kemme, Catholic Diocese of Wichita.

Kemme went on to say Father Kapaun imitated Jesus’s love all throughout his ministry.

“But it reached its fulfillment on May 23rd, 1951, the day of his personal calvary, in a dark, a lonely place far from here offering all that he had for those he considered his friends,” said Kemme. “But that imitation of Christ so powerful then, so clear, began long before that appointed day. It began not far from here, almost 36 years before, in Pilsen, on a farm, in the midst of a prairie.”

Gallery and video: Father Kapaun funeral and procession

Following the Mass, Kapaun’s remains were carried in a horse-drawn caisson procession from Veterans Memorial Park, 339 Veterans Memorial Parkway, to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception at Central and Broadway.

Kapaun was interred in a 5,400-pound tomb inside the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

Father Emil Kapaun’s tomb inside the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Wichita. (KSN Photo)

The Catholic Diocese of Wichita planned Kapaun’s service for months.

Learn more about Father Emil Kapaun here.

Governor Laura Kelly issued a proclamation claiming Sept. 29, 2021, as Father Emil Kapaun Day. Read the proclamation below.

WHEREAS, Father Emil Kapaun was born on April 20, 1916 in Pilsen, Kansas, and raised on his family farm; and

WHEREAS, Father Kapaun was ordained a Catholic Priest in Wichita on June 9, 1940, and served at his home parish of St. John Nepomucene Church in Pilsen, Kansas; and

WHEREAS, Father Kapaun entered the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps in 1944, and served in World War II where he ministered to soldiers and local missions; and

WHEREAS, Father Kapaun served during the Korean War ministering to the dead and dying and performing his priestly duties, but was captured in November 1950 and became a prisoner-of-war; and

WHEREAS, as a prisoner-of-war he stole food and medicine to help his fellow soldiers, and worked tirelessly to lift the spirits of prisoners while he cared for the sick and dying; and

WHEREAS, in May of 1951, Father Kapaun died in a North Korean POW camp after months of declining health; and

WHEREAS, after their release from captivity, Father Kapaun’s fellow soldiers told the world the stories of his heroism; and

WHEREAS, In 1993, Father Kapaun was given the title ‘Servant of God’ by Pope John Paul II, the first step towards sainthood, and the Catholic Church is currently considering him for sainthood; and

WHEREAS, In 2013, Father Kapaun was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama for his actions in North Korea, in addition to the Legion of Merit and Purple Heart medal; and

WHEREAS, For 70 years, Father Kapaun remained missing, until his remains were identified in March of 2021 and turned over to his family on September 21, 2021 in Hawaii; and

WHEREAS, Father Kapaun was brought back home to Kansas and laid to rest inside the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita, Kansas on September 29, 2021. 

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Laura Kelly, GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF KANSAS, do hereby proclaim September 29th, 2021 as Father Emil Kapaun Dain the state of Kansas and I urge all citizens to join in this observation.