A patron saint for the EU?

Yesterday was “Europe Day,” marking the anniversary of the day French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman (not to be confused with the romantic composer with two n’s) presented his proposal on what came to become the European Union. Schuman’s political contributions are undeniable (though with Europe’s monetary union and open borders under more scrutiny than ever ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

Yesterday was "Europe Day," marking the anniversary of the day French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman (not to be confused with the romantic composer with two n's) presented his proposal on what came to become the European Union.

Schuman's political contributions are undeniable (though with Europe's monetary union and open borders under more scrutiny than ever before, it hasn't been a great year for his legacy), but were they worthy of sainthood?

Schuman, a former French foreign minister, who declared on 9 May 1950 that France and Germany should link up their coal and steel industries, was in 1960 dubbed a "founding father" of the Union by the European Parliament in a title recalling the "fathers" of the Catholic church such as St Augustine and St Gregory.

Yesterday was “Europe Day,” marking the anniversary of the day French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman (not to be confused with the romantic composer with two n’s) presented his proposal on what came to become the European Union.

Schuman’s political contributions are undeniable (though with Europe’s monetary union and open borders under more scrutiny than ever before, it hasn’t been a great year for his legacy), but were they worthy of sainthood?

Schuman, a former French foreign minister, who declared on 9 May 1950 that France and Germany should link up their coal and steel industries, was in 1960 dubbed a “founding father” of the Union by the European Parliament in a title recalling the “fathers” of the Catholic church such as St Augustine and St Gregory.

The Institut Saint-Benoit, a foundation in Montingy-les-Metz, France, where Schuman spent much of his life, was set up in 1988 to promote his candidacy for sainthood.

According to its official literature, the foundation believes that Schuman is an “exemplary Christian” both in terms of his personal life and the “holiness of his politics” in seeking to prevent another World War II-type conflict in Europe.

The Vatican has been looking into his eligibility for 21 years. But despite abundant material testifying to his piety and good works, the Schuman dossier has hit a major stumbling block.

“I even asked him [Pope John Paul II] myself on this point … and he answered clearly that in the case of a politician, it is necessary to proceed with great rigour and to demand a miracle,” Pierre Raffin, the Bishop of Metz, wrote in a letter in 2004 forwarded to EUobserver by his office.

The Vatican hasn’t budged much over the years on what constitutes a miracle, as I wrote in an Explainer on sainthood in January. Political accomplishments generally don’t count — they’re looking for something more of the miraculous healing variety. So while many celebrate John Paul II’s role in the downfall of European communism, it was the “miraculous” recovery of a French nun with Parkinson’s disease that got him beatified last week. If anyone with a life-threatening medical condition is praying to Robert Schuman, it would be pretty surprising.

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

Tag: EU

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