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Theologians at Vatican move Fulton Sheen's cause closer to beatification

  • U.S. Archbishop Fulton (CNS/courtesy of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States)
 | 
Peoria, Ill.

The possible miracle needed for the beatification of Archbishop Fulton Sheen took another step toward papal recognition Tuesday when a panel of theologians met at the Vatican, the Archbishop Fulton Sheen Foundation announced.

As a normal part of the sainthood process, the theologians met to consider whether or not the promoters of Sheen's cause demonstrated that the proposed miracle -- the survival of a child delivered stillborn -- occurred after prayers for the intercession only of Sheen.

In March, a seven-member board of physicians convoked by the Congregation for Saints' Causes agreed there was no natural explanation for why the boy's heart started beating 61 minutes after his birth.

The child, James Fulton Engstrom, is now 3 years old and developing normally. His mother, Bonnie Engstrom, had said she had no pre-composed prayer asking for help from Sheen. "I just kept repeating his name over and over in my head: Fulton Sheen, Fulton Sheen, Fulton Sheen."

Sheen was a Peoria diocesan priest who gained fame for his 1950s television show "Life Is Worth Living" and for his 16 years at the helm of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. The archbishop died Dec. 9, 1979, in New York.

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In a statement Tuesday from the Archbishop Fulton Sheen Foundation, Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria said, "With the recommendations of the medical experts and now the theologians, the case will next be reviewed by the cardinals and bishops" who are members of the Congregation for Saints' Causes.

"Finally, the miracle would be presented to Pope Francis, who would then officially affirm that God performed a miracle through the intercession of Fulton Sheen. There is no timeline as to when these next steps might move forward," Jenky said.

If Pope Francis formally issues the decree recognizing the miracle, the bishop said, "Sheen could then be declared 'Blessed' in a ceremony that could be celebrated in Peoria, Sheen's hometown."

Another miracle would be needed for Sheen's canonization.

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