VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict put the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, seen as the world’s first televangelist because of his popular programs in the 1950s-1960s in the United States, on the road to sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church on Thursday.
The pope signed a decree recognizing that Sheen lived a life of “heroic virtues”, an early step in the path that can lead to sainthood.
Now a miracle must be attributed for him to be beatified, which is the last step before sainthood.
Sheen, who died in 1979 at the age of 84, was one of the most famous Catholic Church figures in the United States for nearly half a century.
He had a hugely popular radio show in the 1930 called “The Catholic Hour”. He moved to television in the 1950s, where he used his show, which drew audiences of tens of millions, to denounce communism during the Cold War.
Sheen used television as a tool for evangelization so successfully that he won an Emmy award in 1952.
Time magazine called Sheen, who wrote some 80 books, the first televangelist and put him on its cover.
Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Louise Ireland