Sanctity is probably not something we would immediately associate with anyone connected with the European Union. But just as the Founding Fathers might not recognise their handiwork in the modern United States government, nor Dag Hammarskjold his in the current dominant ideology at the United Nations, nor the framers of the Statute of Westminster theirs in the modern Commonwealth, so too with the founders of the EU. Most of them had a Catholic vision of what the Union should become; three of them – Konrad Adenauer, Alcide de Gasperi, and Robert Schuman – have been considered for beatification at different times.
Robert Schuman (1886-1963) was born in Luxembourg, his mother’s place of birth; his father had started life in Alsace-Lorraine, but out of loyalty to France had fled after the region was annexed by Germany. Robert had his primary and secondary schooling in his native Grand Duchy, before attending university in Metz. Equally at home in French and German, he practised law upon his graduation in 1912; ill health prevented his entering the German army in 1914. Four years later, after France reclaimed his province, he was elected to the National Assembly; he would remain there – except during World War II – for the next four decades. Voting for Marshal Petain’s assumption of complete power in 1940, he refused to join the Vichy government, was arrested by the Germans, and narrowly evaded being sent to a camp. After the war he was successively finance, prime, and foreign minister during the Fourth Republic, and was instrumental in setting up the Council of Europe and the European Coal and Steel Community (forerunner of the EU). Having seen the carnage of the two wars, he devoted his life to ensuring that this could never happen again, thorough the creation of a supranational Europe.
But what has led to his cause for canonisation was the fact that he saw his political work as a religious vocation; indeed, he entered the Assembly to combat the anticlericalism then rampant in France. A daily communicant and Marian devotee, he believed that it was essential for Europe to return to the Faith: on March 19, 1958 he declared: “All the European countries are permeated by Christian civilisation. It is the soul of Europe which must be restored to it.” The present would horrify him.