Fr. Thomas Cusack, an Irish priest executed by Communist forces during the Korean War, may soon be recognized as a saint by the Vatican.

Officials in the Korean Catholic Church have submitted an application to have Cusack beatified as a martyr. This is the first step in the process of study and information gathering by the Holy See. If Cusack is declared a saint, he would be the 167th Irish person to be so honored, and only the fourth Irish saint recognized in the past thousand years.

Cusack was born in 1910 in Ballycotton, County Clare. He was ordained as a Columban priest in 1934, and sent to Korea in 1935.

During World War II, Cusack was captured by the Japanese and spent years in a prisoner of war camp. After the war, Cusack returned to Korea, where he served in a Catholic mission in Mokpo.

When South Korea went to war with North Korea in June 1950, Cusack refused to leave the country. He insisted on remaining with his flock.

The Irish priest was captured during a communist raid across the 38th Parallel the following month. He was thrown into prison, where he endured many weeks of barbaric treatment. Cusack was executed on Sept. 24, 1950.

Fr. Malachy Smith, a Columban priest who has just completed a documentary on the Columban Fathers in Korea, told he Irish Mirror that Cusack was not someone who looked for praise or honors.

Referring to his order, Smith said, “We are not the sort who look for sainthood. We are much more interested in the work among the grass roots.”