“This was unreal,” Oklahoma priest’s beatification draws thousands

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Thousands filled the Cox Convention Center on Saturday to celebrate a simple Oklahoma farm boy, who was murdered as a priest while serving in Guatemala in 1981.

“I’ve had the pleasure of going to the Vatican in St. Peters, and they don’t have anything on us. This was unreal," said Peg Malloy.

The late Father Stanley Rother has been declared a martyr and his life's work deemed holy enough Pope Francis called for his beatification. He is now known as the "Blessed Father Stanley Rother."

“This is the first time an American priest has been beatified. He is the first American martyr the Catholic Church has ever recognized," said Most Reverend Paul Coakley, Archbishop of Oklahoma City.

With songs of worship and prayer, people from around the world took part in the mass.

Even people from Guatemala came to pay their respects.

“It moved me profoundly. His example, his courage, his witness and he’s always been an inspiration to me," said Most Reverend Gonzalo de Villa, Bishop of Solola-Chimaltenango. "I’m thrilled to be able to preside over this process.”

Even Rother's sister, who has also committed her life to service, wasn't surprised by her brother's beatification.

“It’s very gratifying to know that my brother was that well-known, and that well accepted by the people and that he deserved it," said Sister Marita Rother.

Beatification is seen as one of the steps before a priest can be sainted.

“In order for him to become Saint Stanley Rother, we will need to have a miracle verified that has come through his intercession," Coakley said.

A master plan honoring Rother is in the works by the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. It includes a new church, a shrine and a pilgrim site.

It will be located in south Oklahoma City.