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Vatican Panel Recognizes Oklahoma Priest as Possible Martyr

Archdiocese of Oklahoma City

John Burger - published on 06/26/15

Recognition could be first for an American

There has never been a canonized martyr from the United States, but a vote at the Vatican this week may lead to an Oklahoma priest becoming the first.

A special Theological Commission at the Congregation of the Causes of Saints in Rome voted Tuesday to formally recognize Father Stanley Rother a martyr. The determination of martyrdom is a critical step in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City’s Cause to have Father Rother beatified.

“Father Rother laid down his life for Christ and for the people of his parish in Guatemala, whom he dearly loved. It is very encouraging to move one step closer to a formal recognition by the Church of Father Rother’s heroic life and death as a martyr for the Gospel,” said Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City.

During Tuesday’s meeting in Rome, nine theologians discussed the case for nearly two hours and gave a majority vote on Father Rother’s formal and material martyrdom in odium fidei (in hatred of the faith). The cause now will move forward within the Congregation to be approved by a panel of 15 cardinals and archbishops, who are members of the Congregation.

The next meeting on the Cause is expected to take place in six months. If the vote of that panel is positive, the Prefect will present it to Pope Francis, who will promulgate the Decree of Beatification. Beatification, the final stage prior to canonization, permits public veneration and declares that the life of the Blessed is worthy of imitation among the Christian faithful.

Father Rother was born in Okarche and became a priest of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.  He later became a missionary in Guatemala where he served as pastor of the parish of Santiago Atitlan. He chose to continue serving his people in spite of death threats, and on the morning of July 28, 1981, Father Rother was shot to death in his rectory.

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