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VATICAN CITY – An Oklahoman is one step closer to sainthood after the Vatican office in charge of sainthood causes officially declared him a martyr.

This week, Pope Francis signed a martyrdom decree for the Rev. Stanley Rother of Okarche, Oklahoma.

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.

He was one of several priests slain during Guatemala’s 1960-1996 civil war.

The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City opened a Cause of Canonization for Father Rother on October 5, 2007.

June 14, 2015, the Theology Commission of the Congregation for the Cause of Saints in Rome voted to formally recognize Oklahoma’s Servant of God Father Rother, a martyr.

On December 2, 2016, Pope Francis recognized the martyrdom of Father Rother, making him the first martyr born in the United States.

The martyrdom declaration paves the way for Rother’s beatification.

According to the National Catholic Reporter, Pope Francis is expected to beatify Rother in coming weeks.

Beatification, the final step before sainthood, declares that a person’s life is worthy of imitation by Catholics.

The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City will announce more information regarding Father Rother’s beatification at a press conference at 1 p.m.

For more information on Father Rother, visit the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City’s website.