PEORIA, Ill. (CBS/AP) — A bid for more than a decade to canonize the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen, an Illinois native, has stalled indefinitely because the Archdiocese of New York won’t release Sheen’s body to the Peoria diocese as part of the process, the Peoria diocese said.
Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky had sought to have Sheen’s body brought to Peoria to be inspected, and for relics to have been collected as part of the canonization process, The (Bloomington) Pantagraph reported Thursday.
The New York archdiocese isn’t commenting publicly on the matter.
While announcing with “immense sadness” that the sainthood push has been halted “for the foreseeable future,” Jenky said in a statement that “the Diocese of Peoria and the Sheen Foundation have prayed and labored for this good work for the last 12 years.”
“The bishop is heartbroken not only for his flock in Peoria but also for the many supporters of the Sheen Cause from throughout the world who have so generously supported Peoria’s efforts,” the statement read.
Sheen died in 1979 and is entombed in New York, where he spent much of his career and gained national fame for his radio and television commentaries. He was born in 1895 in El Paso, a small Illinois town about 30 miles east of Peoria and grew up in a farm family.
Sheen, considered a pioneer of televangelism, had a popular television show, “Life is Worth Living,” on ABC in the 1950s before serving as bishop in Rochester, N.Y., and later in Newport, Wales.
Sheen’s process toward canonization took a major step forward in March when a Vatican panel recognized a miracle attributed to his intervention. It’s verification awaited approval by the college of cardinals and the pope.
The New York Archdiocese, in a response posted online Thursday, said it’s against the wishes of top church officials and Sheen’s surviving family members to have his body moved. New York officials said it still may be possible to exhume his body for examination.
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