A judge for the Supreme Court of New York has ruled in favor of allowing the remains of Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen to be moved from New York City to Peoria, Illinois.
The decision by Judge Arlene Bluth is the latest in a prolonged tug of war between the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Peoria over the final resting place for Archbishop Sheen who was ordained in Peoria but is currently buried within the crypts of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.
In 2002, the cause for canonization of Archbishop Sheen was opened by the Diocese of Peoria after the Archdiocese of New York stated they would not explore a cause. In 2014, Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria suspended the cause for beatification on grounds that the Holy See would expect Sheen’s remains to be in Peoria.
Joan Sheen Cunningham, niece and closest living relative to Sheen, requested his remains be moved to further his cause for sainthood after Bishop Jenky’s decision. In 2016, the same judge ruled his remains could be immediately moved to Peoria, but repeated appeals from the Archdiocese of New York led to the ruling being blocked.
However, last Friday Judge Bluth issued a final ruling that Joan Cunningham had met the legal threshold to have his remains moved. In the judge’s ruling, she noted that from testimony, Archbishop Sheen would have felt more deeply about canonization as a saint than the location of his final resting place:
“The Court must consider the fact that Archbishop Sheen dedicated his life to the Catholic Church and that becoming saint would be the highest honor he could achieve. That possibility, to become a saint, is sufficient grounds to remove Archbishop Sheen’s remains. The location of Archbishop Sheen’s final resting place would not have been his primary concern. It makes no sense, given his lifelong devotion to the Catholic Church, that he would choose a location over the chance to become a saint.”
In a press release responding to the ruling, the Diocese of Peoria shared their joy over the and stated further steps to advance his cause for canonization would immediately begin once his remains are interred at the church the cause was originally opened from.
“It’s exciting. It’s good news for us. There could be an appeal by the Archdiocese, but at least it gets the ball rolling to Peoria again.” – Monsignor Stanley Deptula
Bishop Jenky also noted that he has high hopes that the Archdiocese of New York will cooperate with the ruling.
“This ruling was issued on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a feast that Venerable Sheen deeply loved. I hope that the New York Archdiocese will cooperate with Joan Sheen Cunningham and the Diocese of Peoria in the practical matters as to moving the remains of Venerable Archbishop Sheen to Peoria, Illinois. It is the hope that this process will begin immediately.”
The Diocese of Peoria, which will inter his remains in a crypt at Saint Mary’s Cathedral, has offered to leave a portion of Sheen’s remains behind as a relic. The Archdiocese of New York has expressed no sentiment of compromise at the notion.