On October 10th the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York heard final arguments in Cunningham v. Trustees of St. Patrick’s Cathedral concerning the final resting place for the remains of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. The body is currently interred in the crypt of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City and a ruling is expected within days. In September of 2014, Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s sainthood cause came to an abrupt stop over allegations that the Archdiocese of New York questioned an agreement over Archbishop Sheen’s body. The dispute over the body began in 2010 after the cause for canonization was officially opened in the Diocese of Peoria in 2002.
On November 16th, 2016, Judge Arlene Bluth of the N.Y. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Joan Sheen Cunningham, Sheen’s niece and closest living relative, who has legal rights over his body, finding that she had “good and substantial reasons” to have her uncle’s body removed from the crypt of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where it currently lies, to Peoria, Illinois. The New York Archdiocese shortly afterward filed a motion to block the ruling in order to appeal the case.
Perhaps the most famous Catholic evangelist in American history, the Venerable Fulton J. Sheen was born in Peoria, Ill., and ordained there in 1919. He wrote more than 70 books over the course of his life and appeared on the cover of Time in 1952. At the time, the magazine called him “perhaps the most famous preacher in the U.S., certainly America’s best-known Roman Catholic priest, and the newest star of U.S. television,” with his television show “Life is Worth Living” watched by millions during the 1950’s. The Archbishop died near the chapel in his New York apartment on December 9th, 1979.
In a letter sent Wednesday to clergy and laity in his diocese, Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria said: “I strenuously request for your prayers for the Appellate Court to side in favor of Joan’s petition. A favorable ruling supporting Joan’s petition will be a great step towards bringing Sheen to Peoria and advancing his Beatification.” Father Andrew Apostoli, CFR was ordained by Archbishop Sheen and served as the first postulator for his cause of canonization. “I sincerely hope and pray for a favorable ruling of the court and the renewal of his cause for sainthood move forward,” said Father Apostoli. “If it be God’s will, it would be a great blessing for this country to see the Archbishop declared a saint.”