French statesman Robert Schuman, a founder of the European Union, has been declared “venerable” by Pope Francis.
Following a meeting last weekend with Cardinal Marcello Semararo, the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Pope Francis advanced the cause for sainthood of Mr Schuman and six others.
Robert Schuman was born in Luxembourg in 1886, but had familial ties to Lorraine, which was contested territory at the time following the Franco-Prussian war. After Lorraine’s return to France, Mr Schuman served as one of the region’s Members of Parliament, in the Christian Democrat political tradition.
He went on to become France’s Minister of Foreign Relations, which is when he announced the formation of the European Steel and Coal Community in 1950, a move seen by many as the first step towards the creation of the European Union.
He served as the first president of the European Parliament, which named him the “Father of Europe” when he left the office.
Mr Schuman died in 1963, his cause for sainthood beginning over 30 years ago.
“Schuman dedicated his life to serving the common good, seeking peace and reconciliation with Germany to create a community of European states,” Fr Bernard Ardura, an official in charge of proposed French canonisations, told AFP.
Mr Schuman’s efforts were the “work of a Christian, which serves as an example,” Fr Ardura said, despite the fact that the statesman “remained very discreet about his personal life and his faith”.