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Vatican official: Pope to advance sainthood cause of EU 'founding father' Robert Schuman

Robert Schuman in August 1949. Credit: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-19000-2453 (CC-BY-SA 3.0) Robert Schuman in August 1949. Credit: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-19000-2453 (CC-BY-SA 3.0)

Pope Francis could declare venerable the French statesman Robert Schuman, a key “founding father” of the European Union, a Vatican official has said.

 

Marcello Cardinal Semeraro, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, said the pope could recognize his “heroic virtues” as early as June, Agence France Presse reports. Cardinal Semeraro told the French newspaper La Croix the Pope is likely to declare Schuman venerable before summer begins.

 

Father Bernard Ardura, an official in charge of proposed French canonizations, said Schuman’s cause was worthy of consideration.

 

“Schuman dedicated his life to serving the common good, seeking peace and reconciliation with Germany to create a community of European states,” Fr. Ardura told Agence France Presse.

 

“Schuman’s work involved putting an end to the infernal cycle of war, the humiliating defeat, the desire for revenge and more war,” the priest said, saying this cycle dated back to the defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.

 

Schuman’s efforts were ‘“the work of a Christian, which serves as an example,” said Fr. Ardura, even if the statesman “remained very discreet about his personal life and his faith.”

 

Robert Schuman was born in Luxembourg in 1886. He had family roots in Lorraine, contested territory lost by France to Germany in the Franco-Prussian War. After Lorraine returned to France, Schuman served as one of the region’s Members of Parliament, in the Christian Democrat political tradition. At one point during the Second World War, he was arrested by the Gestapo and secretly imprisoned, according to his biography on the website of the Robert Schuman European Centre.

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He was France’s Minister of Foreign Relations when he announced the forming of the European Steel and Coal Community on May 9, 1950. The move is considered a first step towards the creation of the European Union.

 

Schuman was also a key negotiator for the North Atlantic Treaty and the European Coal and Steel Community. He served as the first President of the European Parliament which named him “Father of Europe” when he left office.

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Schuman died in the Diocese of Matz in 1963. His cause for sainthood began there over 30 years ago.

 

Last year, in a letter signed Oct. 22, Pope Francis discussed Schuman in the context of contemporary Europe.

 

“We can either continue to pursue the path we have taken in the past decade, yielding to the temptation to autonomy and thus to ever greater misunderstanding, disagreement and conflict, or we can rediscover the path of fraternity that inspired and guided the founders of modern Europe, beginning precisely with Robert Schuman,” he said.

 

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The pope’s letter praised the Schuman Declaration, which proposed a Europe-wide community for coal and steel production.

 

Pope Francis called the speech “an event of capital importance that inspired the gradual process of the continent’s integration, making it possible to overcome the animosity resulting from the two world wars.”

 

“Today, as many in Europe look to its future with uncertainty, others look to Europe with hope, convinced that it still has something to offer to the world and to humanity,” the pope continued. “The same conviction inspired Robert Schuman, who realized that ‘the contribution which an organized and living Europe can bring to civilization is indispensable to the maintenance of peaceful relations.’ It is a conviction that we ourselves can share, setting out from shared values and rooted in the history and culture of this land.”

 

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In November 2003 remarks to the Robert Schuman Foundation, France’s main research center on Europe, St. John Paul II called Europeans to remember and cherish their Christian roots. He praised Schuman for spending his political life “in the service of the fundamental values of freedom and solidarity, understood fully in the light of the Gospel.”

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