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PEORIA — Archbishop Fulton Sheen's remains have returned to Peoria, providing an opportunity to move forward with the sainthood process for the El Paso-born Sheen.

The Catholic Diocese of Peoria announced Thursday that his remains were transferred from their resting place at St. Patrick Cathedral in New York to the Cathedral of St. Mary in Peoria, and that the effort for Sheen's beatification has restarted. The resumption of those efforts was affirmed by the Vatican.

Members of the public will be able to visit his tomb in Peoria as early as Friday morning.

The shift of the remains follows the rejection of a final appeal by New York's archdiocese on June 7 to keep them in New York where they'd been at the center of a lengthy legal tug-of-war between Peoria and New York clergy over whether or not they could be exhumed and moved. Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky has been working to arrange the transfer for most of the last two decades.

Having the remains in Peoria, the seat of the diocese that is overseeing the process of petitioning for sainthood, is considered a critical step.

"The Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Peoria cooperated in arranging for the transfer. This transfer followed civil law and Church law," the release stated.

It also noted that under church law "the transfer of the remains of one considered for beatification must to be done without any solemnity. As a result, the transfer could not be publicized in advance. Also, no liturgical ceremony or public gathering could be held during the transfer. Therefore, the transfer of the remains was done without prior public notice."

Often considered the nation's first televangelist, Sheen's radio and television broadcasts won him a wide following, though his time as a priest began in Peoria 100 years ago this year.

The Congregation of the Causes of Saints will forward to Pope Francis the alleged miracle attributed to Sheen's intercession after prayers for the healing of a newborn infant who was without vital signs for over an hour.

If Pope Francis issues a decree of the miracle, an additional decree will follow calling for Sheen's beatification. That will signal the beginning of work between the Peoria diocese and the Vatican's sainthood panel, organizing a celebration of beatification in Peoria to be presided over by Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, the prefect for the Congregation of the Causes of Saints. That panel would also issue the instructions required for the gathering of any relics.

Jenky has expressed hopes the decrees will come swiftly and that the beatification can occur during 2019, the anniversary year of Sheen's ordination to the priesthood, which occurred in Peoria. In a statement, he urged people to continue offering prayers for Sheen's beatification.

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