Pope Francis claims US televangelist performed miracle, paving way for sainthood

Adam Forrest

Pope Francis has declared that a late US television preacher once performed a miracle, moving him one step closer to sainthood.

The Vatican announced on Saturday the formal approval of the miracle, thought to relate to claims about a baby’s extraordinary recovery in an Illinois hospital.

The Diocese of Peoria believes that Archbishop Fulton J Sheen – who died in 1979 – interceded in 2010 on behalf of a baby who began breathing 61 minutes after showing no signs of life at birth.

One miracle allows a candidate for sainthood to be beatified in the Catholic faith, but a second miracle must be approved in order for sainthood to be conferred.

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No date has been given for his beatification ceremony, but the Peoria Diocese said it was beginning preparations for the celebration in the central Illinois city.

Archbishop Sheen’s on-air evangelism made him a well-known figure in the US over several decades, having started on NBC radio in 1930 with a weekly programme called The Catholic Hour.

He expanded to television in 1950 with NBC’s Life is Worth Living, regularly amassing more than 30 million viewers.

The pope’s decision comes just weeks after a New York court ruling allowing the American archbishop’s niece to bury him in Peoria, where he was ordained, ending years of litigation and allowing the process for sainthood to resume.

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (AP)
Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (AP)

Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky said he was grateful the Vatican acted quickly after the transfer of the archbishop’s remains, and hopeful Pope Francis will set a date for beatification soon.

“It is truly amazing how God continues to work miracles,” Bishop Jenky said.

The diocese conducted a canonical investigation into the 2010 birth at a Peoria hospital and submitted its findings to the Vatican in 2011.

The Church teaches that only God performs miracles but that saints who are believed to be with God in heaven intercede on behalf of people who pray to them. A miracle is usually the medically inexplicable healing of a person.

Additional reporting by agencies