To many in Brussels, the French statesman is already a saint. But now Pope Francis has decided to put Robert Schuman — the foundering father of the European Union — on the path to sainthood. A decree has been issued by the Vatican recognising his 'heroic virtues', the first step in the formal process of canonisation. Two miracles now have to be attributed to him in order for Schuman to achieve full sainthood — a task that might prove difficult given the EU's track record.
Schuman began plans for a Council of Europe in 1948 during his final days as Prime Minister of France, establishing a long-standing tradition of late-career politicians securing new European sinecures. And it's true that the devout Catholic did much to help rebuild postwar Europe.
But Mr S wonders whether it's right for the Vatican to be venerating a man whose associations with the Vichy government initially disbarred him from holding public office in liberated France. Schuman briefly served as a minister in the Nazi collaborationist government but subsequently quit the regime. He later considered fleeing to London before being arrested and interrogated by the Gestapo in 1940. It is worth adding too that his record is far cleaner than many of his fellow founders, who included a former adviser to Mussolini and a defence lawyer for Waffen SS soldiers accused of committing war crimes.
Schuman's is a complicated personal history and certainly not one to be condemned out of hand. But given his overtly federalist ideology, it seems a strangely political decision from this Pope. Mr S, for one, would consider taking on the role of devil's advocate...