- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 18, 2004

METZ, France — A campaign to sanctify the European Union through the beatification of its founding father, Robert Schuman, appears likely to fail for lack of evidence that he performed a miracle. The Vatican says persuading France and Germany to cooperate does not qualify.

For 14 years, investigators at the Diocese of Metz have combed through the life of the French statesman to determine whether he merits the title “Blessed Robert,” the first step toward full sainthood.

The sanctification drive was launched by a private group in Metz, the St. Benoit Institute, but has acquired powerful backers, including French President Jacques Chirac.

The last Roman Catholic canonized for living out his religious vocation through politics was Thomas More almost 500 years ago. He was executed at the Tower of London for opposing Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon in a test case of apostolic supremacy.

Mr. Schuman, the French foreign minister who in May 1950 announced plans to pool Western Europe’s coal and steel production, died quietly in bed in 1963 in Scy-Chazelles near Metz, at age 77.

A gangly ascetic, he lived on eggs and lettuce, taking the Eucharist each morning at the chapel of Servants of Sacred Heart near his home. He never married. German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer dubbed him “a saint in a business suit.”

The Metz investigators, after poring over his private letters and taking testimony under oath from more than 200 witnesses, have confirmed that the French statesman was indeed a saintly man who sought to live by scriptural guidance.

However, the inquiry failed to find any evidence of miraculous healings or visions — a prerequisite for beatification.

A sealed chest containing 66 stacks of documents has been shipped to Rome for a final decision by the Congregation of the Saints.

Schuman supporters lobbied hard for a favorable interpretation of the rules, arguing that Franco-German reconciliation in the bitter aftermath of World War II was miraculous. Pope John Paul II has responded coolly.

While embracing Mr. Schuman as an “authentic Catholic” and an “eternal example” who highlights the value of piety in public life, the pope sternly instructed the bishop of Metz “to proceed with the greatest rigor in demanding a miracle in the case of political figures.”

Jean Moes, a former professor of German history and the leader of the inquiry, said the Vatican was unlikely to be swayed by his team’s findings.

“We need a miracle, and we haven’t been able to find one. All we have is the construction of Europe after the war, and Rome does not accept that as a real miracle,” he said.

Mr. Schuman was born in Luxembourg and raised as a German in Prussian-controlled Metz. He served in the Kaiser’s army during World War I, switching citizenship automatically as France regained Alsace-Lorraine. As French prime minister in 1947, he still spoke with a guttural Germanic accent.

The Schuman Plan, the basis of the European Coal and Steel Community established in 1952, was the precursor to the European Community seven years later. It was intended to lead to full economic union and, ultimately, a European federation.

Fifty years later, the European Union appears to have turned its back on the deeply Catholic inspiration of its founding statesman, dropping all reference to God in the draft constitution.

“Schuman would have turned in his grave,” said Jacques Paragon, his sponsor for sainthood at the St. Benoit Institute.


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