ROME — Pope Francis has advanced the cause for canonization of European statesman Robert Schuman, bringing him one step closer to sainthood.
This weekend the pope authorized the promulgation of a decree recognizing the “heroic virtues” of Robert Schuman (above, right), one of the founding fathers of European unity, granting him the title “Venerable.”
Francis had an audience with the Vatican’s Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, in which the pontiff advanced Schuman’s cause, along with that of four other Venerables and eleven future Blesseds, including ten martyred Polish nuns killed in 1945 during the invasion by Soviet troops.
Schuman (1886-1963) was arrested and imprisoned by the Gestapo in September 1940 and held for seven months. He eventually escaped and lived in hiding until the end of the war, “taking refuge mainly in convents and monasteries,” Vatican News reported.
After the war, Schuman held a number of important posts in the French government, including Minister of Finance, Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Minister of Justice.
He is recognized together with Konrad Adenauer (above, left) and Alcide De Gasperi as a founding father of a united Europe. Their work was vital to the Treaty of Rome of 1957, which established the European Economic Community (EEC).
Schuman was elected by acclamation as the first President of the new European Parliament in 1958 and served for one year before being struck down by a severe form of cerebral sclerosis.
In 2020, Pope Francis marked the 70th anniversary of the Schuman Declaration of May 9, 1950, asserting that the text “inspired the process of European integration, enabling the reconciliation of the peoples of the continent after the Second World War, and the long period of stability and peace from which we benefit today.”
A vocal proponent of multilateralism, the pope has often criticized political movements that underscore national sovereignty, insisting that countries must look beyond the needs of their own citizens to put themselves at the service of the world.
In 2019, Francis went so far as to insist that citizens of European nations should put the good of Europe before that of their own countries.
“The thinking must be ‘Europe first, then each one of us,’” the pope said in a wide-ranging interview with the Italian daily La Stampa. “‘Each one of us’ is not secondary, it is important, but Europe counts more.”
“Never forget that ‘the whole is greater than the parts.’ Globalization, unity, should not be conceived as a sphere, but as a polyhedron: each people retains its identity in unity with others,” he said.
“In the European Union, we must talk to each other, confront each other and get to know each other. Yet sometimes we see only compromise monologues. No: we also need to listen,” he said.
The pontiff went on to criticize pro-sovereignty politics, which led to mottos such as that of the Lega party: “Italians first.”
Sovereignism reveals “an attitude toward isolation,” the pope said. “I am concerned because we hear speeches that resemble those of Hitler in 1934. ‘Us first, We…We…’ These are frightening thoughts.”
“Sovereignism means being closed,” the pope continued. “A country should be sovereign but not closed. Sovereignty must be defended, but relations with other countries and with the European community must also be protected and promoted.”
“Sovereignism is an exaggeration that always ends badly: it leads to war,” he declared.