Vatican postpones beatification for Archbishop Fulton Sheen

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With “overwhelming joy,” Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria announced on 6 July 2019 that Pope Francis had approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Archbishop Fulton Sheen, the famed US television evangeliser. In a shock announcement, Bishop Jenky has revealed that the Vatican has postponed the planned 2 December beatification because of the reservations of some US bishops. Archbishop Sheen is pictured in an undated photo. Photo: CNS

The US Bishop who led the campaign for the beatification of famed television evangeliser Archbishop Fulton Sheen said Vatican officials have told him that the upcoming beatification of Archbishop Fulton Sheen has been postponed just weeks before it was due to take place.

In a news release from the Diocese of Peoria, where Sheen was ordained to the priesthood, Bishop Daniel Jenky said the diocese was informed on 2 December that the Vatican had decided to postpone the 21 December ceremony “at the request of a few members” of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Details on what prompted the bishops to intervene were unknown. The diocese added, “In our current climate it is important for the faithful to know that there has never been, nor is there now, any allegation against (Archbishop) Sheen involving the abuse of a minor.”

James Fulton Engstrom is held by his parents, Travis and Bonnie Engstrom, on 7 September 2011, at the Spalding Pastoral Centre in Peoria, Illinois, as a tribunal began investigating the boy’s apparent miraculous healing through the intercession of Archbishop Fulton Sheen. With them are Andrea Ambrosi, postulator of Archbishop Sheen’s sainthood cause, and Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky. Photo: CNS, Jennifer Willems, The Catholic Post

On 18 November, Pope Francis approved the beatification ceremony for the popular US archbishop, whose television program attracted millions of viewers nationwide and continues to be viewed in reruns in some markets.

Calling the delay “unfortunate,” the diocesan release outlined some of the activities for which Archbishop Sheen was especially known, including “his personal dedication” a Holy Hour of daily prayer before the Blessed Sacrament and “courage in confronting the challenges in our society.”

“On 18 November, Pope Francis approved the beatification ceremony for the popular US archbishop … “

“Drawing strength from his personal prayer life and deep devotion to Our Lord, Fulton Sheen consistently demonstrated tremendous courage in confronting the challenges in our society,” the statement said. “He was well known for his boldness in preaching the Gospel on radio and on television in the face of our secular culture. This same spirit of courage and boldness guided him as a bishop to preach the truth, to defend the faith and to safeguard the church.”

The Peoria Diocese also said “there continue to be many miracles reported” through the archbishop’s intercession. The diocese said there have been “several” miracles reported since the pope’s announcement of the beatification ceremony.

Still confident beatification will happen

“Since a few members of the bishops’ conference have requested a delay, the Diocese of Peoria remains confident that Archbishop Sheen’s virtuous conduct will only be further demonstrated,” the statement said. “Bishop Jenky has every confidence that any additional examinations will only further prove Fulton Sheen’s worthiness of beatification and canonization.

“The Diocese of Peoria has no doubt that Fulton Sheen, who brought so many souls to Jesus Christ in his lifetime, will be recognised as a model of holiness and virtue,” the statement added.

Famed as a media evangelist, mission promoter, preacher and author, Archbishop Fulton Sheen, was due to be beatified on 21 December 2019, at St Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria, Illinois. In a shock announcement, the Vatican has postponed the ceremony. Archbishop Sheen is pictured in an undated photo speaking during a television broadcast. Photo: CNS

The diocese said Bishop Jenky was “deeply saddened” by the Vatican’s decision.

“In particular, Bishop Jenky is even more concerned for the many faithful who are devoted to Sheen and who will be affected by this news,” the diocese said. “He is firmly convinced of the great holiness of the venerable servant of God and remains confident that Sheen will be beatified. Bishop Jenky has every intention of continuing the cause, but no further date for beatification has been discussed.”

No comment

The Diocese of Peoria said it will offer no further comment “at this time.”

Fulton Sheen, a native of El Paso, Illinois, was ordained on 20 September 1919, at St Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria. He went on to teach at The Catholic University of America in Washington and lead the Society of the Propagation of the Faith. Perhaps he is best remembered for his popular television show, “Life Is Worth Living.”

He died in 1979 at the age of 84. His sainthood cause was officially opened in 2003. The church declared his heroic virtues and he was given the title “Venerable” in 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI.

Seminarians of the Diocese of Peoria, Illinois, carry the container with the remains of Archbishop Fulton Sheen from the hearse to the steps of the St Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria June 27, 2019. Archbishop Sheen’s remains were transferred from St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City to the Peoria cathedral following a legal dispute between the two dioceses; Archbishop Sheen was ordained to the priesthood in St Mary’s in 1919. Photo: CNS, Jennifer Willems, The Catholic Post

In July, Bishop Jenky announced Pope Francis had approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Archbishop Sheen, which led the way to the announcement he would be beatified.

The miracle concerns the healing of James Fulton Engstrom of Washington, Illinois, who was considered stillborn when he was delivered during a planned home birth on 16 September 2010. His parents, Bonnie and Travis Engstrom, immediately invoked the prayers of Archbishop Sheen and encouraged others to seek his intercession after the baby was taken to OSF HealthCare St Francis Medical Centre in Peoria for emergency treatment.

In general, two miracles must be accepted by the church as having occurred through the intercession of a prospective saint, one before beatification and the other before canonisation.

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