Illinois diocese wins latest legal battle over Fulton Sheen’s body

Illinois diocese wins latest legal battle over Fulton Sheen’s body

Father Charles P. Connor prays before the tomb of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen in the crypt of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York in this 2009 photo. (Credit: CNS.)

The New York Court of Appeals has ruled against the archdiocese of New York's efforts to keep the body of Fulton J. Sheen in St. Patrick's Cathedral.

NEW YORK — Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s remains may soon be moving to Peoria, Illinois, following a decision from a court to reject the New York archdiocese’s efforts to keep him where he served the bulk of his ministry.

In the latest development in the nearly two decades-long struggle, the New York Court of Appeals sided with a lower court’s decision to grant permission to Sheen’s niece to have his body interred at St. Mary’s Cathedral, which the diocese of Peoria views as a necessary step for his cause for canonization.

RELATED: New York court sides with Peoria in tug-of-war over Fulton Sheen’s body

“After almost three years of litigation, the New York Archdiocese’s legal arguments have now been rejected at all three levels of the New York state court system,” Monsignor James E. Kruse, vicar general for the Peoria Diocese said in a statement.

“Although the New York Archdiocese may technically have legal options remaining, they are contrary to the wishes of Archbishop Sheen and his family, and would serve no genuine purpose except to delay the eventual transfer of Archbishop Sheen’s remains. We call on the Archdiocese of New York to end its litigious endeavors,” he continued.

Since his death in 1979, Sheen has been interred at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where, as one of the most popular evangelists of the 20th century, he once served as auxiliary bishop before being named as bishop of Rochester in 1966. He retired from that post in 1969 and lived in Manhattan until his death.

The tug-of-war over Sheen’s body dates back to 2002 when the diocese of Peoria announced it would pursue his cause for canonization after the archdiocese of New York declined to do so. The cause was suspended in 2014 when Peoria’s Bishop Daniel Jenky announced that the Holy See required the body of Sheen to be in Peoria to move the cause forward.

The archdiocese of New York has disputed that claim, maintaining that Vatican officials have indicated that the cause could move forward, irrespective of where his remains reside.

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