A senior Rome-based Catholic cleric, Father Bernard Ardura, said, “Schuman dedicated his life to serving the common good, seeking peace and reconciliation with Germany to create a community of European states.”
Several Popes have backed the idea of a “European project” and the French-born Schuman, a devout Catholic, was first mooted for sainthood some three decades ago.
The possibility of him becoming a saint was welcomed by senior Polish EPP MEP Danuta Hubner, who told this site, “It is wonderful that Pope Francis, a man of peace and reconciliation, will bestow the highest honour of the Catholic Church on the man who shared the same values and gave both the Christian and human witness to his epoch in a way that was needed at the time.”
The former commissioner added, “I hope that some people will understand finally that Christian faith and love for Europe do not collide in the Universe.”
Schuman, a qualified lawyer and French foreign minister between 1948 and 1952, is regarded as one of the founding fathers of European unity.
Despite, or maybe as a result of his experiences in Nazi Germany, he recognised that only a lasting reconciliation with Germany could form the basis for a united Europe. Deported to Germany in 1940, he joined the French Resistance upon fleeing two years later.
In cooperation with Jean Monnet he drew up the internationally renowned Schuman Plan, which he published on 9 May 1950, the date now regarded as the birth of the European Union.
“It is a mistake to paint Europe as a Catholic institution linked to Rome and the Vatican and I hope the Pope does not try to appropriate the EU as a Roman Catholic institution. Today’s Europe is multi-faith” Denis MacShane, Former UK Europe Minister
The Schuman Plan set the scene for the creation of a single authority to control the production of steel and coal in France and West Germany (now Germany), to be opened for membership to other European countries.
Schuman informed the German chancellor Adenauer of the plan, who immediately recognised the opportunity for a peaceful Europe and agreed.
Shortly afterwards, the governments of Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands also reacted. The six states signed the agreement for the European Coal and Steel Community in Paris in April 1951.
Schuman also supported the formation of a common European defence policy and held the post of President of the European Parliament from 1958 to 1960.
The process to make someone a saint cannot normally start until at least five years after their death. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints scrutinises the evidence of the candidate's holiness, work and signs that people have been drawn to prayer through their example.
If the Congregation approves the case, it is passed to the Pope and if the Pope decides that the person lived a life of “heroic virtue” they can then be called “venerable.”
To reach the next stage, beatification, a miracle needs to be attributed to prayers made to the individual after their death.
“It is wonderful that Pope Francis, a man of peace and reconciliation, will bestow the highest honour of the Catholic Church on the man who shared the same values and gave both the Christian and human witness to his epoch in a way that was needed at the time” Danuta Hubner, EPP
In the case of Schuman it is not yet know exactly how he would pass this hurdle to qualify for sainthood, but Father Ardura said, “Schuman’s work involved putting an end to the infernal cycle of war, the humiliating defeat, the desire for revenge and more war.”
Further reaction to the news came from former UK Europe Minister Denis MacShane who is less enthusiastic.
He told this site, “I think anyone trying to run the EU today needs to be a saint to handle 27 diverging sets of national politics, national priorities, or national passions, prided prejudices.”
“I am not sure it helps the EU to make Schuman a Catholic saint. He was a workaday typical politician who brokered endless compromises.”
“He happened to be French foreign minister in 1950 so the first proposal for European cooperation was called the Schuman Plan. He had been born in Luxembourg and then lived in German occupied Alsace Lorraine and was called up as German soldier in 1914 though he did not fight in WW1.”
He went on, “Nonetheless his fluent German, his strong pro-Americanism all made him the perfect man to take Churchill’s call for a united Europe and begin the first steps including the Council of Europe and the Schuman plan which shared sovereignty between France, Germany, Italy and Benelux governments over the steel and coal industries.”
“Schuman dedicated his life to serving the common good, seeking peace and reconciliation with Germany to create a community of European states”
Father Bernard Ardura, senior Rome-based Catholic cleric
“However, it is a mistake to paint Europe as a Catholic institution linked to Rome and the Vatican and I hope the Pope does not try to appropriate the EU as a Roman Catholic institution. Today’s Europe is multi-faith - we should render unto God that which is God’s and render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s.”
“The EU certainly could do with more Europeans who believed in it and more leaders today who lead a life closer to monkish modesty than fine wining and dining and we could do with European leaders less linked to pocket lining and treating political and public service as a gateway to enrichment.”
He concluded, “But both the citizens and the leaders are not saints and making Schuman a saint will not help his cause nor increase his stature.”