Pope declares Archbishop Sheen ‘venerable’
On Thursday, Pope Benedict XVI today issued a decree affirming the heroic virtues of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. This declaration carries with it the title of “Venerable” for one of America’s most celebrated and impactful evangelists in the history of the Catholic Church.
This is a monumental second step in the process of the advancement of Sheen’s Cause of Canonization for sainthood. Pope John Paul II declared him Servant of God following initiation of the Cause for Canonization in 2002.
“This is a great day for the Catholic Diocese of Peoria and the Catholic Church in America,” said Most Rev. Daniel R. Jenky, Bishop of Peoria, Ill. “Fulton Sheen’s zeal, wisdom, and holiness should help us build our faith.”
Venerable Archbishop Sheen was born May 8, 1895, in El Paso, Ill., in the Diocese of Peoria. He was ordained to the priesthood in Peoria in 1919.
He began a radio ministry in New York City in 1926, and became the first regular speaker on the NBC network radio program “The Catholic Hour” in 1930. His “Life is Worth Living” national television program aired from 1952 through 1957, and the program drew millions of viewers weekly. He won the 1952 Emmy as “Most Outstanding Personality” and, during his acceptance speech, thanked his “four writers – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.” He also hosted the TV series “Pro Vadis, America?” from 1964 to 1966, and “The Bishop Sheen Program,” which began in 1966.
In 1966, he was elected Chairman of the Committee for the Propagation of the Faith. Pope Paul VI appointed him Bishop of Rochester, N.Y., in Oct. 1966, and as Archbishop of the Titular See of Newport, Wales, in Oct. 1969.
Venerable Archbishop Sheen died Dec. 9, 1979, at his home in New York City.
“As head of the Propagation of the Faith from 1950 to 1966, the Venerable Fulton Sheen was heroic in spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ far and wide – from Peoria to Pretoria; New York to New Delhi. He teaches us still that the Church is missionary by her very nature,” said Very Rev. Andrew Small, O.M.I., National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies.
“Today, more than ever, the Church in America needs heroes to inspire us to stand up and to fall to our knees,” said Msgr. Stanley Deptula, executive director of the Archbishop Fulton John Sheen Foundation in Peoria. “I think in a special way, Venerable Fulton Sheen can be an inspiration and a consolation to our bishops and other Church leaders. He was a man of courage, and priest of prayer.”
Following conclusion of the Diocesan phase of investigation in support of Archbishop Sheen’s Cause for Canonization, Bishop Jenky presented all the documents generated to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. Today’s declaration of venerability is the second of four official steps on the way to Canonization.