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PEORIA — The canonization process for Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen has been halted after the Archdiocese of New York refused to release the body to the Peoria Diocese.

Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky has updated his statement regarding New York's decision. (See attached PDF)

Sheen, a native of El Paso, was internationally known as a pioneer of televangelism for his radio and television broadcasts that brought him top national ratings and an Emmy in the 1950s. He also preached and wrote widely before his death in 1979 in New York.

The abrupt end to the sainthood process "for the foreseeable future" means Sheen will "have to be relegated to the Congregation's historic archive," the Peoria Diocese said in a prepared statement, referring to the Vatican body that investigates the causes of candidates for canonization.

His beatification, a major step toward being declared a saint, could have occurred as early as next year.

Peoria Bishop Daniel R. Jenky announced the decision "with immense sadness" on Thursday afternoon.

"The Diocese of Peoria and the Sheen Foundation have prayed and labored for this good work for the last 12 years," the statement said. "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.

"It should be noted, however, that saints are always made by God, not by man. Efforts for many causes (of candidates for canonization) have sometimes taken decades or even centuries. Bishop Jenky urges that those who support the Sheen Cause continue their prayers that God’s will be made manifest."

The Archdiocese of New York has denied Jenky's request to move Sheen's body to Peoria despite previous assurances that it would permit the move, Jenky's office said. His body was to have been inspected and relics would have been collected as part of the canonization process.

The diocese did not comment further on the dispute, and the Archdiocese of New York did not release a statement on its website.

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.

While a second miracle would be required before Sheen could be declared a saint, the first declared miracle paved the way for beatification.

Sheen, born May 8, 1865, attended schools in the Peoria Diocese and was ordained in 1919 in Peoria.

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