PEORIA — Pope Francis has approved the miracle attributed to El Paso native Fulton Sheen, paving the way for Sheen's next step toward sainthood, the Peoria Diocese announced early Saturday.
Venerable Archbishop Sheen, who died in 1979, is believed to have interceded on behalf of newborn infant in 2010. Without signs of life for 61 minutes, the baby began to have a normal heartbeat and survived.
The pioneering religious broadcaster gained fame for his television show in the 1950s and early 1960s. He started with a radio ministry in 1926. He also was a prolific writer and speaker.
Beatification is a step before being declared a saint, Verification of one miracle is required for beatification. Verification of a second miracle is needed for sainthood.
“It is truly amazing how God continues to work miracles," said Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky. "I am so grateful that the Vatican acted so quickly after last week’s transfer of Sheen’s remains from New York to the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Peoria.”
Now that the miracle has been confirmed, the diocese can begin planning for the beatification, which will take place in Peoria. The date will be grated by the pope, the diocesan statement said. Jenky said he hopes it will be during the 100th anniversary year of Sheen's ordination to the priesthood in Peoria.
Explaining the miracle attributed to Sheen, a diocesan statement said: "Family and friends 'immediately began offering prayers begging Fulton Sheen to intercede for their newborn child. The infant was transferred to OSF Medical Center in Peoria, a few blocks away from the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Peoria where Sheen was ordained in 1919 and now is entombed," according to an explanation provided by the diocese.
"Despite receiving the most advanced medical treatment available, the infant continued to show no signs of life. Moments before the doctor was going to declare the infant to be dead, suddenly and without any medical explanation, the infant’s heart began to beat normally and the baby breathed normally. After 61 minutes without a heartbeat, the baby was alive! After a few weeks in the hospital, the infant was sent home and has now grown into a healthy young child," the statement said.
A website, celebratesheen.com, will include ticket information once the beatification date is set.
Sheen's remains were transferred last week to Peoria from New York. The transfer was arranged after the New York Court of Appeals rejected the final appeal of the Archdiocese of New York, ending three years of legal battles.
His burial site became an issue when the Peoria Diocese began the canonization process in 2002. The dispute over his remains resulted in the suspension of his cause for canonization in 2014.
Sheen's remains are entombed at Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Peoria. Visiting hours are 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, noon to 2 p.m. weekdays and 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday.