OKLAHOMA CITY – The remains of a priest who was killed during an Oklahoma mission in Guatemala more than three decades ago have been exhumed as part of the Roman Catholic Church's beatification process.
The Oklahoman reports the Rev. Stanley Rother is scheduled to beatified during a September ceremony in Oklahoma City. Rother was killed in 1981, during Guatemala's civil war, by unknown assailants believed to be government soldiers.
The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City opened Rother's cause for beatification in 2007, at the request of his parishioners in Guatemala. Pope Francis put the American priest on the path to possible sainthood by declaring him a martyr in December.
Rother's family led a procession and prayed before his remains were exhumed last week at a cemetery in Okarche, Oklahoma. Medical professionals examined and verified the remains before they were re-interred in a chapel at an Oklahoma City cemetery. They were placed in a new casket, wrapped in a red ribbon and secured with a wax Archdiocese of Oklahoma City seal.
The martyrdom declaration paved the way for Rother's beatification. Unlike regular candidates, martyrs don't need a Vatican-certified miracle attributed to their intercession to be beatified. A miracle, however, is necessary to be declared a saint.
Rother was among several priests slain during Guatemala's 1960-1996 civil war. He had been in Guatemala translating the New Testament into an Indian dialect when he was killed.
Francis, history's first Latin American pope, has made clear that he believes priests killed during Latin America's right-wing dictatorships died out of hatred for the faith.