An American Martyr

Pope Francis has recognized the martyrdom of Father Stanley Rother of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, making him the first martyr born in the United States. Father Rother is pictured in an undated file photo. (CNS photo/Charlene Scott)

Pope Francis has recognized the martyrdom of the Rev. Stanley Rother of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, making him the first martyr born in the United States and clearing the way for his beatification. The Vatican made the announcement on Dec. 2. Father Rother, born March 27, 1935, on his family’s farm near Okarche, Okla., was gunned down on July 28, 1981, in a Guatemalan village where he ministered to the poor. He had gone to Santiago Atitlan in 1968 on assignment from the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. He helped the people there build a small hospital, school and its first Catholic radio station. As the violence rose around him, he received numerous death threats over his opposition to the presence of the Guatemalan military in the area. Father Rother chose to remain in his Guatemalan community, explaining in a letter back home before his murder, “the shepherd cannot run away at the first sign of danger.”

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