Robert Schuman, a French lawyer recognized as one of the architects who designed the European Union bloc, has advanced on the Catholic Church’s path to possible sainthood after Pope Francis signed a decree declaring his “heroic virtues” on Saturday.

The Vatican reported that its highest authority, Pope Francis, approved a decree declaring Schuman’s “heroic virtues,” which means that from now on he can be called “venerable” by the Catholic faithful. This is one of the requirements established to achieve the status of sainthood.

“Behind the action of the public man, there was the interiority of the man who lived the sacraments, who, when he could, took himself to an abbey, who reflected on the sacred Word before finding the form of his political words,” the Vatican said of Schuman.

The decree “advances the causes for canonization,” the Vatican statement said.

Born in Luxembourg in 1886 to a Luxembourgish mother and French father in an area annexed by Germany, Schuman was a German citizen at birth. However, after World War II, when the area was returned to France, Schuman became a French citizen. 

As a young man, he began his studies to become a prestigious lawyer later and served as a member of the French National Assembly. In 1940 Schuman was arrested by the Gestapo after the German occupation of France but managed to escape in 1942. The European Commission’s biography also noted his activity in the French Resistance.

After World War II, Schuman served as Minister of Finance, Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Justice.

On May 9, 1950, Schuman delivered a speech promoting cooperation among European nations to help converge their economic interests, which could perhaps be understood as the first call to create an alliance that eventually became the European Community. He argued that such cooperation, involving especially France and Germany, would make another war on the continent unthinkable and impossible.

Schuman died in 1963 after becoming the first president of the forerunner of the European parliament.

On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the so-called Schuman Declaration last year, Francis mentioned that it was the starting point of “a long period of stability and peace from which we benefit today.”

Even the European Commission describes him as “one of the founding fathers of European unity” and “the architect of the European integration project.”

For Schuman to be recognized as a saint, a few more steps are needed, including miracles to be attributed and validated by the Vatican. Prior to the Pope’s latest decree, Schuman’s followers and devotees had examined his writings and listened to witnesses before sending the relevant documents to the Church’s headquarters.

In any case, the critics of the believers did not take long to arrive, and since the news became known a number of messages can be read on social networks criticizing the Vatican for mixing sacred matters with politics. 

As is well known, the European Union has many defenders but there are also many detractors of the bloc. Ultimately whether it is a good or bad thing should be discussed on the earthly plane and there is still no consensus on the matter, critics argue. 

Therefore, bringing Schuman closer to the path of sainthood because of his political activity would imply that the Vatican is taking a position on something that is not decisive for the Catholic Faith, such as creating economic blocs such as the European Union. 

For the Catholic Church, a saint is a kind of link between ordinary human beings and God and an example to be followed by all believers on their religious path to paradise.