Robert Schuman served in many political roles, but his deepest identity was his Catholic faith.
Robert Schuman was born on June 29, 1886, in Luxembourg. His father, Jean-Pierre Schuman, was a native of Lorraine. When his country was annexed by Germany in 1871, he was made a German citizen. Robert’s mom, Evange Duren, also came from Luxembourg.
Robert’s secondary schooling took place from 1896 until 1903 at Athenee de Luxembourg. From there, he would move on to study law, economics, theology, philosophy, politics, and statistics at the University of Berlin. He received a law degree with the highest honors from Strasbourg University.
In 1912, Robert set up a law practice in Metz. When war broke out in 1914, he was called up by the German army but was excused from service because of poor health. From 1915 to 1918, he served in an administrative capacity for the German government. After the war ended, Alsace-Lorraine was returned to France, and in 1919, Robert became a French citizen.
Robert Schuman quickly became involved in politics. In 1919 he was elected as a member of the Chamber of Deputies. He was instrumental in drafting the reintroduction of French Civil and Commercial codes in Alsace-Lorraine, formerly under German control. Schuman also began investigations into the corrupt steel and railroads industries.
At the beginning of World War II, Robert was asked to become a member of the French government as the man in charge of the refugees. The Nazis took control of France in May of 1940. As a member of French National Assembly since 1919, Schuman was immediately high on their radar.
Arrested by the Gestapo
Robert was arrested by the Gestapo on September 14, 1940. The charges were “resistance and protest against Nazi methods.” He was about to be shipped to Dachau when a German lawyer, who knew him well, intervened. His efforts kept Robert in prison in France. Robert managed to escape in 1942 and immediately joined the resistance. He worked with them until France was liberated in 1944.
After the war, Robert Schuman was a busy man. He was a founder of the Popular Republican Movement (MRP). He served as Minister of Finance in 1946, Premier from November 1947-July 1948, and Foreign Minister from July 1948 to December 1952. In 1950, while Foreign Minister, he developed the Schuman Plan. This plan led to economic and military unity between Germany and France.
In 1958, the initiatives put in place by Schuman would eventually lead to the European Economic Community, better known as the European Common Market. Robert would serve as President of the Common Assembly (the consulting arm of the Common Market) until 1960. He also served as Minister of Justice from 1955 to 1956.
“Father of Europe”
With such a history, Robert Schuman was instrumental as one of the founders of the European Union and NATO. From 1958 to 1960, he was the first President of the European Parliament. He is known as “Father of Europe.”
Bible scholar and devout Catholic
In the midst of all his civic duties, though, Robert Schuman was a devout Catholic and a Bible scholar. His role in trying to break the seemingly never-ending cycle of wars in Europe has been praised by several popes. He was a proponent of the writings of Pope Pius XII, who despised fascism and communism. He was made a Knight of the Order of Pius IX. He was an expert in medieval philosophy, specializing in the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas. His quest for peace among people and nations was always rooted in his Catholic faith.
On Saturday, June 19, 2021, Pope Francis placed Robert Schuman on the road to sainthood by recognizing him as a man of “heroic virtue.” This means he now holds the title of Venerable Robert Schuman.
Venerable Robert Schuman, please pray for us, and for Europe.