Peoria and NY Catholic Church leaders in war of words over Archbishop Sheen’s remains

Bishop Sheen
Catholic Church leaders in Peoria and New York remain at odds over the final resting place for Archbishop Fulton Sheen, who was born in El Paso and gained fame as a preacher on TV and radio. (Photo credit: YouTube)


By Howard Packowitz

PEORIA – A battle within the Catholic Church over the remains of famed Archbishop Fulton Sheen does not appear to be over despite a recent New York court ruling.

It was the second time the Superior Court there found in favor of Sheen’s niece, Joan Sheen Cunningham, to transfer the El Paso native’s remains to Peoria from its current resting place in New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Since Monday, the Peoria Diocese and the much larger New York Archdiocese issued news releases indicating they have not resolved the disagreement.

The New York Archdiocese said St. Patrick’s trustees are obligated to respect Sheen’s wishes as stated in his will that he be buried in New York. The Archdiocese lawyers are determining what will happen next.

The Peoria Diocese has done the church a great service in taking steps to elevate Sheen to sainthood, the New York Archdiocese said. However, the Peoria Diocese fired back claiming New York church leaders have done almost nothing the last 15 years to help make Sheen a saint, instead providing expensive legal resistance to the cause.

The Peoria Diocese said it’s working rapidly with Mrs. Cunningham to move her uncle’s remains, which would be placed in a shrine “very accessible” to the public at Peoria’s St. Mary’s Cathedral.

“Many preparations for the transfer of the mortal remains of Venerable Archbishop Sheen are in process. It is everyone’s hope and prayer that the Archdiocese of New York will respect the wishes Joan Sheen Cunningham and allow the Diocese of Peoria to advance the Cause. It is unimaginable that Cardinal (Timothy) Dolan, as well as the New York Archdiocese will continue their legal resistance. If the Archdiocese of New York follows this second ruling and assists Joan Sheen Cunningham’s desire to transfer her uncle’s mortal remains to Peoria, Rome has indicated that there is a strong possibility that the celebration of theBeatification of Archbishop Fulton Sheen could happen in the next few months afterobtaining the approval of the Holy Father,” the Peoria Diocese said.

Howard Packowitz can be reached at


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