OKLAHOMA CITY - An Oklahoman is one step closer to sainthood.
Father Stanley Rother was ordained in 1963. Five years later he went to Guatemala to serve the people there.
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
Many say he was killed for sharing his beliefs.
Now, a special Theological Commission at the Congregation of the Causes of Saints in Rome voted Tuesday to formally recognize Father Rother as a martyr.
The determination of martyrdom is a critical step in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City's Cause to have Father Rother beatified, the final stage before canonization as a saint.
If Father Rother is declared a martyr the church will not have to attribute any miracles to him and the process for him to become a saint speeds up.
“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 the Most Rev. Paul S. Coakley, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.
If beatified, Father Stanley Rother could be not only the first Oklahoman but also the first U.S. priest to become a saint in the Catholic Church.
On Tuesday, nine theologians met in Rome to discuss the case and gave a majority vote on Father Rother's formal and material martyrdom.
The Cause will now move forward within the Congregation to be approved by a panel of 15 cardinals and archbishops.
If the panel vote is positive, the Prefect will present it to the Holy Father, who will promulgate the Decree of Beatification, which is the final stage prior to canonization.
According to the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, Tuesday's decision comes nearly a year after Archbishop Coakley presented a formal petition to the Congregation along with an extensive document that summarized the facts and testimony concerning the life and death of Father Rother.
For more information on Father Rother, visit the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City's website.