PEORIA — Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s remains may soon be moved to Peoria, a key step in re-launching the effort to have the Central Illinois native recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church.
The Peoria Diocese has announced that Sheen’s surviving family has agreed to file paperwork in New York, where the former priest and broadcaster is entombed, to support moving the remains to Peoria.
He was born in El Paso in 1895 and attended Spalding Institute in Peoria. After his ordination, he served as a priest in Peoria before moving to the East Coast and becoming internationally known for his radio and television broadcasts.
In 2014, the refusal of the Archdiocese of New York to permit the taking of relics or the review or transfer of the remains — despite, the Peoria Diocese said, multiple promises to the contrary from archdiocese leaders — caused the Peoria Diocese to suspend its long-running effort to push for Sheen’s sainthood.
Joan Sheen Cunningham, Sheen's 88-year-old niece, filed the petition which also has the support of her siblings.
"...If Archbishop Sheen knew during his lifetime that he would be declared a saint of the Roman Catholic Church ... it would have been his wish that his remains be interred in St. Mary's Cathedral in Peoria," the application states in part.
It also includes copies of correspondence from Cardinal Edward Egan of the New York Archdiocese in 2002 that expresses his lack of objection to the Diocese of Peoria spearheading efforts to see Sheen declared a saint.
Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky is “immensely grateful” for the family’s agreement, the diocese said in its release, which also expressed hope that the archdiocese would provide its assent in the face of the family’s wishes.
Given the work that already has gone into the saint-making process, “a beatification could be celebrated shortly after the arrival of the remains in Peoria and with the approval of Pope Francis,” the diocese said.
That would involve a formal ceremony expected to be held in Peoria, and would be the second-to-last step on the road to sainthood. A further miracle attributed to Sheen after beatification would be required for canonization as a saint.
Sheen's remains would be entombed in a marble crypt at the side altar of St. Mary's Cathedral in the city's North Valley.
Canonization efforts have been ongoing since 2002.