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Remains of Archbishop Fulton Sheen to be moved to Peoria

Archbishop Fulton Sheen is pictured in an undated photo (CNS files)

The remains of Archbishop Fulton Sheen are to be moved from St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York to the Illinois city of Peoria after a two-year dispute between the two dioceses.

A New York judge ruled in favour of a lawsuit launched by the Diocese of Peoria to bring the remains back to where Archbishop Sheen first served as an altar boy and then was ordained a priest.

The dispute led to the suspension of Archbishop Sheen’s Cause two years ago.

Two years earlier the Vatican had declared the archbishop – an early televangelist who presented the television programme “Life Is Worth Living” in the 1950s – to have lived a life of “heroic virtue”, meaning he is described as Venerable.

A possible miracle is being investigated that would pave the way for his beatification.

Patricia Gibson, lawyer for the Peoria diocese, said she hoped the remains would be relocated before Christmas and that a marble crypt could be built at St Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria within weeks.

The petition to the judge was made by Archbishop Sheen’s cousin, 88-year-old Joan Sheen Cunningham.

She had originally said the Diocese of Peoria’s relocation campaign was a “power grab” but diocesan officials had persuaded her that the Cause would most likely move ahead if she made a legal petition in favour.

A spokesman for the New York archdiocese said the cathedral’s trustees would “need to review the decision with their lawyers and determine what next steps they wish to take”.

Gibson, however, said the archdiocese would have to win a stay of the judge’s order to block the decision. “That would have to come from the same judge, and that’s not likely,” she said.

Vatican theologians are investigating a possible miracle attributed to the intercession of Archbishop Sheen. The case, which medical advisers have said has no natural cause, concerns the survival of a baby whose heart stopped for an hour.