The stirring sermons of the late Bishop Fulton J. Sheen are as vital in today's world as they were 50 years ago, his longtime assistant, Monsignor Hilary Franco, tells Newsmax TV.
Sheen, expected to be canonized as a saint in the near future, was the bishop of Rochester, N.Y., and gained nationwide fame in the 1950s and '60s on television with his folksy, matter-of-fact parables.
"I feel that Bishop Sheen would repeat the same things that he said four decades ago,'' Franco told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Tuesday.
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"They look like they were written … right now, at this very moment.''
As well, Sheen was outspoken and would not be muzzled on the issues of the day.
"He was against the war in Vietnam at that time and he said it publicly. He would always come up and say whatever he felt,'' Franco said.
"He would say a few things about the church we don't like … talk[ing] about the abuse of children and so on ... in a very strong way, because that was his war.''
Franco, who an adviser and permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, was Sheen's assistant when he was Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of New York.
The two would walk from the church to a television studio where Sheen delivered his popular missives, which had an audience — huge at the time — of 40 million viewers.
"You and I would take probably five, seven minutes [to walk to the studio]. Not with the bishop, because [pedestrians] would stop him and ask for a picture,'' Franco said.
Sheen's show did so well, it was compared to the highly rated variety program of comedian Milton Berle, who was known as "Uncle Miltie.''
"They used to say Uncle Fultie and Uncle Miltie,'' Franco recalled.
Time magazine dubbed Sheen "the golden-voiced Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen, U.S. Catholicism's famed proselytizer."
In June 2012, Pope Benedict recognized a decree from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints that Sheen had lived a life of "heroic virtues" — one of four steps to sainthood.
"I'm very, very happy to say that we are almost there … We are almost near the beatification of Fulton J. Sheen,'' Franco said.
"So now it's actually up to the Holy Father, Pope Francis, to decide when we are going to have the beatification ceremony.''
Franco is also finishing up a detailed memoir of his time with Sheen, which will include excerpts of more than 100 handwritten letters Sheen wrote him.
"To me, that's the greatest treasure that I have … I will try to make the people understand how precious was the influence of this man, [and] not only on the church,'' Franco said.
"[He was] much in love with his own country, America, and he wanted that country to be saved under the guidance of God Almighty.''
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