by Francis X. Rocca
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Benedict XVI has approved the heroic virtues of U.S. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, the Vatican announced June 28, clearing the way for the advancement of his sainthood cause.
Among the others honored in decrees announced the same day were first prelate of Opus Dei, the Canadian and Irish-American founders of two orders of religious women, a priest murdered by the Sicilian Mafia and 154 martyrs killed during the Spanish Civil War.
Archbishop Sheen heroically lived Christian virtues and should be considered “venerable,” said a decree issued by the Congregation for Saints’ Causes and signed by Pope Benedict. Before the archbishop can be beatified, the Vatican must recognize that a miracle has occurred through his intercession.
The decree came just more than 13 months after Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria, Ill., presented Pope Benedict with two thick volumes about the life of Archbishop Sheen, whose home diocese was Peoria.
Archbishop Sheen, who was born in Illinois in 1895 and died in New York in 1979, was an Emmy-winning televangelist. His program, “Life is Worth Living,” aired in the United States from 1951 to 1957.
Last September, a tribunal of inquiry was sworn in to investigate the allegedly miraculous healing of a newborn whose parents had prayed to the archbishop’s intercession.
The Vatican also announced papal decrees approving the beatification of 158 men and women, including 156 martyrs, all but two of them Spaniards, killed during their country’s 1936-39 Civil War.
Father Giuseppe Puglisi, a Sicilian priest and activist against organized crime who was killed by the Mafia in 1993, was another of the martyrs recognized.
Martyrs do not need a miracle attributed to their intercession in order to be beatified. However, miracles must be recognized by the Vatican in order for martyrs to be canonized.
Other decrees recognized the heroic virtues of eight men and women, including:
• Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, the first prelate of Opus Dei.
• Mother Marie-Josephte Fitzbach, founder of the Good Shepherd Sisters of Quebec.
• Mother Mary Angeline Teresa McCrory, the Irish-born founder of the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm, who died in New York state in 1984.