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VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has put an American priest killed during Guatemala’s civil war on the path to possible sainthood by declaring him a martyr.

Francis signed a martyrdom decree Thursday for the Rev. Stanley Rother of Oklahoma. He was killed in 1981, one of several priests slain during Guatemala’s 1960-1996 civil war. Rother had been in Guatemala translating the New Testament into an Indian dialect.

The martyrdom declaration paves the way for Rother’s beatification. Unlike regular candidates, martyrs don’t need a Vatican-certified miracle attributed to their intercession to be beatified. A miracle, however, is necessary to be declared a saint.

Francis, history’s first Latin American pope, has made clear that he believes priests killed during Latin America’s right-wing dictatorships died out of hatred for the faith, including Salvador Archbishop Oscar Romero.

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