Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen to Be Beatified

Pope Francis approves miracle attributed to his intercession following the conclusion of a legal tussle over where to keep his remains.

Pope John Paul II and Archbishop Fulton Sheen hug at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, October 2, 1979.
Pope John Paul II and Archbishop Fulton Sheen hug at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, October 2, 1979. (photo: EWTN)

Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen will be beatified after the Vatican announced today that Pope Francis had approved a miracle attributed to his intercession.

In a statement, the Vatican said the Holy Father had authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate a decree regarding: 

“- the miracle attributed to the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God Fulton Sheen, titular archbishop of Newport, former bishop of Rochester; born on 8 May 1895 in El Paso, Illinois, United States of America, and died on 9 December 1979 in New York, United States of America.” 

The popular author and Emmy award-winning televangelist, whose program, Life is Worth Living, was broadcast from 1951 to 1957, was declared Venerable by Benedict XVI in 2012 after it was recognised the archbishop had heroically lived Christian virtues.

The miracle attributed to Venerable Sheen’s intercession relates to James Fulton Engstrom who was found to be stillborn on Sept. 16, 2010. During delivery, James’ umbilical cord became knotted, causing him to be cut off from oxygen and nutrients. 

While his parents, Bonnie and Travis Engstrom, watched James receive CPR and doctors’ attempts to revive him, they prayed to Venerable Sheen. “I believe it was Sheen’s intercession that played a key role in it, but it was Jesus who healed my son," Bonnie Engstrom said in 2012.


Legal Dispute

Today’s news comes after Venerable Sheen’s remains were transferred last month from the Archdiocese of New York to Peoria after three years of litigation.

Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria suspended the beatification cause in September 2014 on the grounds that the Holy See expected Archbishop Sheen’s remains to be in the Peoria diocese rather than in the archdiocese of New York.

Archbishop Sheen had declared in his will his wish to be buried in New York, but Joan Sheen Cunningham, Venerable Sheen’s niece and closest living relative, later said he would have wanted to be interred in Peoria if he was to be considered for sainthood. 

After a legal tussle, the Superior Court of New York ruled in June 2018 that Sheen’s remains be transferred to Peoria. 

The New York Court of Appeals dismissed an appeal by the New York archdiocese in May and in June this year, leading the archdiocese to agree on Venerable Sheen’s remains being transferred to Peoria.

The end of the civil litigation meant that Venerable Sheen’s beatification cause could continue. 

Archbishop Sheen’s writings and preaching are increasingly seen as prophetic, especially with regards to the current crises today facing the Church and society as a whole. 

For Archbishop Sheen to be canonized, a second miracle attributed to his intercession will be required after his beatification.