NEW YORK (ChurchMilitant.com) - The family of Ven. Abp. Fulton J. Sheen is petitioning the New York Supreme Court to move his remains to Peoria, Illinois.
"It is with great joy that the Diocese of Peoria announces that the family of the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen has petitioned the Supreme Court of the State of New York County of New York to allow the transfer of his remains to Peoria, Illinois," stated a press release issued by the Peoria diocese Tuesday. Bishop Jenky also posted the announcement to his Facebook page.
Joan Sheen Cunningham, the archbishop's closest living relative, along with other family members filed the petition. Sheen's body currently lies in the crypt beneath New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral.
The release continues,
The Bishop of Peoria, Daniel Jenky, C.S.C., is immensely grateful for the collaboration of Mrs. Joan Sheen Cunningham and her family. With the transfer of the body, Bishop Jenky looks forward to the resumption for the Cause of Beatification of the Venerable Archbishop Sheen. With the progress that the Cause has already made, a beatification could be celebrated shortly after the arrival of the remains in Peoria and with the approval of Pope Francis.
The statement makes clear that the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints "has no objection to the transfer" and has, rather, "repeatedly expressed their appreciation" for the diocese's efforts in this regard.
The Vicar General of the diocese of Peoria, Msgr. James Kruz, commented, "I am confident that the Archdiocese of New York will cooperate fully with the request of the family of Archbishop Sheen. ... I cannot imagine that the Archdiocese would oppose the family's petition presented to the Court."
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, head of the New York archdiocese, came under fire in 2014 when he refused to remove Abp. Sheen's body to Peoria.
On September 3, 2014, the Peoria diocese issued a statement declaring: "It is with immense sadness that the Most Reverend Daniel R. Jenky ... announced today that the Cause for Sheen's beatification and canonization has for the foreseeable future been suspended."
It continued, "Bishop Jenky was personally assured on several occasions by the Archdiocese of New York that the transfer of the body would take place at the appropriate time. New York's change of mind took place as the work on behalf of the Cause had reached a significant stage."
The next day, the New York archdiocese responded through its spokesman Joseph Zwilling claiming that "Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen expressly stated his desire that his remains be buried in New York." It added that "Archbishop Sheen's closest surviving family members have also expressed their desire that their uncle’s wishes be respected and that his body remain in New York."
The Peoria diocese immediately answered the next day clarifying that it had received multiple assurances by the late Cdl. Edward Egan, former archbishop of New York, that Sheen's remains would go to Peoria, and that New York was "not interested in pursuing the cause." Cardinal Egan "reassured [Bp. Jenky] that he would work to transfer the body at the appropriate time to be enshrined in the Peoria Cathedral."
Without the body of the late archbishop, the cause for canonization cannot continue in Peoria, and has since been put on indefinite hold. Now with Sheen's family expressing their desire to have his remains removed so his cause can continue, the faithful await the New York archdiocese's response.
Sheen served as auxiliary bishop in New York from 1951–66, when he was appointed bishop of Rochester, a position he held until 1969. He authored more than 65 books and was a professor of philosophy at the Catholic University of America. He is best known for his award-winning TV show "Life Is Worth Living."