Pope Benedict XVI has put Fulton John Sheen on the road to sainthood by recognizing his “heroic virtues”. The former bishop of Rochester, New York, was known for his radio and TV appearances denouncing Communism and liberal psychology.

The Associated Press reports that the formality of recognizing his “heroic virtues” paves the way for beatification, the last step on the way to sainthood.

Born Peter John Sheen in 1895, he was the son of Irish immigrants, Newton and Delia, according to his obituary. He grew up Peoria, Illinois and later studied in Rome and England.

Sheen became universally known as a popular evangelist radio and TV personality as well as a writer and missionary. In fact, at the height of his media career Sheen was watched by 20 million viewers on 123 stations.

In 1952 he won an Emmy award for his TV series “Life is Worth Living”. Accepting the award, he said, “I wish to thank my four writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.”

He was named Archbishop of Rochester, New York in 1966 and in 1969 was appointed the position of titular bishop. Sheen then moved into a small apartment in Manhattan, New York City and spent the rest of his life writing.

Sheen met with Pope John Paul II in 1979. The Pope embraced Sheen and said “You have written and spoken well of the Lord Jesus. You have been a loyal son of the Church!”

Sheen died of heart disease later that year.

In 2002 Bishop Daniel Jenky of the Diocese of Peoria, Illinois, officially opened the cause for Sheen’s beatification and canonization. The Bishop and supporters also set up a website for the cause.

Speaking to Catholic News Today, Bishop Jenky said, “This is a great day for the Catholic Diocese of Peoria and the Catholic Church in America.”

He added that the “heroic virtues of a son from central Illinois and a priest of Peoria have been recognized by the Catholic Church.

“Fulton Sheen’s zeal, wisdom, and holiness should help us build our faith,” Jenky said.

Msgr. Stanley Deptula, executive director of the Archbishop Fulton John Sheen Foundation in Peoria, said it was “not a coincidence that the church would render its decision on the heroic virtue of Archbishop Sheen on the same day as the Supreme Court issues its decision on the health care plan.”

He added that the timing of the announcement shows how the church in the United States “needs heroes” and that Archbishop Sheen can “be an inspiration and a consolation to our bishops and other church leaders” since he was “a man of courage, and priest of prayer.”

The decree, issued on Thursday, comes from the Congregation for Saints’ Causes and signed by Pope Benedict XVI. It states that Archbishop Sheen should be considered venerable because he heroically lived Christian virtues.

The Church must now confirm two miracles carried out by Sheen before sainthood is declared. The first miracle would lead to beatification, the second to sainthood.

On Thursday Pope Benedict also proclaimed Sicilian priest Giuseppe "Pino" Puglisi a martyr. Puglisi was gunned down by the Mafia in 1993 having challenged mobsters to change their ways. If a miracle can be attributed to his intervention with the Mafia a sainthood could be bestowed.

Here’s a clip of Bishop Sheen on his show “Life’s Worth Living” discussing “Gloom, Laughter, and Humour,” also known as the Irish Psychology: