From our permanent special correspondent
One of the “fathers of Europe” is now a “Venerable”. So decided by Pope Francis, Saturday, June 19, in a decree published by the Vatican and in which he recognizes the“Heroicity of virtues” by Robert Schuman. A first step towards holiness for this French politician whose trial began in 1990 in his diocese of origin in Metz, twenty-seven years after his death.
The thick file sent to Rome in 2004 and since examined by historians and theologians of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints accurately retraces the career of this layman considered to be one of the “fathers of Europe”.
A convinced Catholic, close to Franciscan spirituality, he was indeed one of the architects of Franco-German reconciliation. Born in Luxembourg in 1886 with German nationality, thinking for a time of moving towards the priesthood, he became French after the First World War and entered Parliament as a deputy for Moselle.
It was after the Second World War, as Minister of Foreign Affairs (1948-1952), that he worked to bring the two former enemies together and announced, on May 9, 1950, that “The French government proposes to place all Franco-German coal and steel production under a common High Authority, in an organization open to the participation of other European countries”. A declaration that will go down in history and lay the foundations of what has become the European Union today. It is this date of May 9, in remembrance of these words, that Europe Day is celebrated each year.
If it is this declaration which is worth to Robert Schuman to be passed down to posterity, it is indeed the whole of his life that the Congregation for the Causes of Saints has examined, and not only his political action during the last years of his life. public career. Robert Schuman is the man of two cultures, French and German. It is the one who was part, from his law studies, of a group of Catholic students, engaging at the end of the First World War in political action. Elected in Metz before being a legislative candidate, he was also the one who defended local law in Alsace and Moselle, inherited from German law, in regions liberated from the occupier. Including the Concordat still in force today.
Member of Parliament at the very beginning of the Second World War, ephemeral under-secretary of state for refugees, he voted full powers for Marshal Pétain, before regretting his decision, presenting his resignation the next day. He was then arrested by the Gestapo, escaped from Metz prison and joined the resistance in August 1942 after hiding for a few days at the Ligugé abbey. After the war, General de Gaulle, recognizing his good faith, will lift the ineligibility which then applies to all parliamentarians who have voted full powers for the marshal. From 1946, he could therefore regain his seat as a Member of Parliament and took part in various governments, notably as President of the Council on two occasions between 1947 and 1948.
“He is a man who, day by day, wondered what the Gospel called him to do”, explains Father Cédric Burgun, former president of the Saint-Benoît Institute, at the initiative of the cause of canonization. The priest recalls that by recognizing Robert Schuman as venerable, it is not a question for the Church of “To say that all his political choices were the right ones”, but rather to recognize the way in which he sought to live out his choices. Like this retreat during which Robert Schuman meditates on Christ’s encouragement to forgive his enemies. We are still a long way from May 9, 1950. “But he then considers that this request for reconciliation does not apply only to individuals, but also to countries”, underlines Father Cédric Burgun.
Because more deeply, this recognition of the heroic virtues of a layman engaged in the political field, through a party, is not insignificant for the Vatican. Canonizations of politicians are indeed extremely rare, all the more so among contemporary figures. Admittedly, Thomas More and Louis IX king of France were both recognized saints, but much longer after their deaths.
In the process, Rome was particularly cautious, thus following the indications given by John Paul II during a meeting with a French bishop, to whom he had confided that the beatifications of political leaders were particularly sensitive for the Catholic Church.
“The resemblance with the image of God is made through the practice of virtues”, explains Bishop Bernard Ardura, president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences. “The only difficulty with the cause is that he did not write any homilies or spiritual books. “ It was therefore necessary to go through the reports of the National Assembly and the UN, where the speeches of the one who was deputy, minister and president of the Council are scrupulously recorded.
“He fulfilled his vocation as a man and a Christian through the service of the common good, continues Bishop Bernard Ardura. And political action is, in this sense, seen as the summit of the action of charity. “ Who pursues: “It is also a way of showing that politics is a way of holiness. “
By recognizing Robert Schuman as venerable, it is not for Rome to value partisan commitments, but rather the very fact of engaging in politics on the part of a man whose ideal was to reconcile the enemies of his time. . “At the antipodes of Schuman, there is the politician who has no conviction and only acts to be reelected”, underlines Bishop Bernard Ardura.
It is precisely in the political aspect that lies the limit of Robert Schuman’s cause. Because the author of the May 9 declaration is seen today more as a politician than a spiritual figure. But to move forward again, and become blessed or holy, a miracle must be attributed to his intercession. A “Sign of God” obligatory in the eyes of Rome for the venerable Robert Schuman to become blessed and then holy.
“His reputation for holiness is yet to be developed”, admits Father Cédric Burgun, who “Never go to Metz without going to his grave to confide his intentions”.“There is much to do, through conferences, publications, times of prayer, he continues. We have to explain who he is. “