Fulton Sheen beatification process on indefinite hold

The cause for beatification of American evangelist Archbishop Fulton Sheen has been suspended indefinitely because of a spat between two US dioceses.

In a September 3 communiqué, the Diocese of Peoria, where Archbishop Sheen was born, announced that the cause was suspended “for the foreseeable future” and would be assigned to a Vatican archive.

This is because the Archdiocese of New York had refused to release the archbishop’s remains and to allow the body to be transferred to Peoria for the process of official inspection and to take relics.

Peoria diocese said in a communiqué that the Holy See expected the remains to be moved to Peoria in Illinois.

Archbishop Sheen’s last will and testament expressed a desire for burial in New York.

He accepted Cardinal Terence Cooke’s invitation for interment in the crypt beneath the main altar of St Patrick’s Cathedral.

Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria, the President of the Archbishop Fulton J Sheen Foundation, who had taken charge of the cause, was said to be “heartbroken” at the refusal.

The Peoria communiqué stated Bishop Jenky was assured on several occasions by the Archdiocese of New York that the transfer of the body would take place at the appropriate time.

“New York’s change of mind took place as the work on behalf of the cause had reached a significant stage,” the communiqué added.

New York’s undertaking to help move the body at an appropriate time was given by Cardinal Edward Egan twice, a Peoria spokesperson said in an update.

The Congregation for Saint’s Causes advised in 2005 that moving the body should wait for an appropriate time, as the diocesan inquiry had not started.

But Peoria believes that with this inquiry now complete, now is the right time.

A date for beatification could have been as early as next year, the Peoria statement added, as the process only awaited a vote of cardinals and the approval of the Holy Father.

New York archdiocese responded that Cardinal Timothy Dolan “did express a hesitance in exhuming the body” without a directive from the Vatican Congregation for Saints’ Causes and the approval of Archbishop Sheen’s family.

The statement added that Archbishop Sheen’s “closest surviving family members” asked that the archbishop’s interment wishes be respected.

The statement noted that Cardinal Dolan “does object to the dismemberment of the archbishop’s body” [for relics], but, were it to be exhumed, relics that might have been buried with Archbishop Sheen might be able to be taken.

If Peoria’s decision is final, New York suggested it could take over the cause.

Peoria had previously suspended the cause process, for similar reasons, in 2010.


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