US Catholics to mark 50 years since Navy chaplain’s heroic death

Washington D.C., Aug 15, 2017 / 12:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Mass and a documentary premiere are among the events marking the 50th anniversary of the death of Servant of God Father Vincent R. Capodanno, the decorated Navy chaplain who was killed seeking to provide the sacraments to ambushed Marines in the Vietnam War.

Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services will celebrate the Annual Mass for Father Capodanno Sept. 5 at the Crypt Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. The Mass will take place at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

“Many of the surviving Marines who served with Father Capodanno will participate, along with current senior military leaders and active-duty personnel. The public is invited to attend,” the Archdiocese for the Military Services said Aug. 10.

Father Capodanno was a Maryknoll priest from Staten Island, N.Y. He was nicknamed the “Grunt Padre” for his service to members of the infantry.

While with Maryknoll, Fr. Capodanno served in Taiwan and Hong Kong, and then requested to be reassigned as a chaplain with the US Marine Corps. He was sent to Vietnam in 1966, and requested an extension to his tour of duty when it was up.

The chaplain was killed at the age of 38 on Sept. 4, 1967 in Vietnam’s Que Son Valley after his unit was ambushed by North Vietnamese forces. Despite suffering injuries from mortar fire, including a partly severed hand, he continued to last rites to the dying and medical aid to the wounded.

In disregard of intense small arms fire, automatic weapons fire, and mortars, Fr. Capodanno rushed about 15 yards to reach a wounded corpsman in the direct line of fire of a North Vietnamese machine gunner. He was killed just before he reached the wounded man.

He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor on Jan. 7, 1969. “By his heroic conduct on the battlefield, and his inspiring example, Lt. Capodanno upheld the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the cause of freedom,” said the priest’s Medal of Honor citation.

Many of the Catholic faithful devoted to Fr. Capodanno have reported favors granted following intercessory prayers to the chaplain. In 2006 the Congregation for the Causes of Saints declared Fr. Capodanno a Servant of God.

On Aug. 30 at 10 p.m. Eastern Time, EWTN Global Catholic Network will broadcast the world premiere of a 90-minute documentary “Called and Chosen: Father Vincent R. Capodanno,” about his life and death. The documentary’s producer is Jim Kelty.

Before the documentary, at 8 p.m. Aug. 30, EWTN Live will carry a one-hour panel discussion about Fr. Capodanno. The show will be hosted by Father Mitch Pacwa, S.J., with panelists including Kelty; Capt. George Phillips, USMC (Ret.), board chairman of the Father Capodanno Guild; and Mary Preece, vice-postulator of Fr. Capodanno’s cause for canonization.

The Archdiocese for Military Services encouraged viewings of the documentary on EWTN and to participate in the Mass for Father Capodanno.

In October 2013 Archbishop Broglio appointed a tribunal to investigate whether the priest had led a life of heroic virtue, with the goal of determining whether his cause for sainthood should be pursued.

The archbishop in May announced that the archdiocesan phase of the clause had closed. A decision is pending from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints concerning whether to declare the priest “venerable.”

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