Sanctity lived in politics

Interview with father Ardura, postulator of the cause of the "father of Europe"

"United Europe encompasses future universal solidarity": amidst the countless documents and annotations kept in the house of Scy-Chazelles, a few steps from Metz, is to be found also this phrase, which brings together two fundamental aspects in the life of Robert Schuman: European political integration and a glance directed towards the future. "Indeed, he was a Christian that looked to the future with hope, committing himself for a better world. All of his existence has been put to the service of the common good", said father Bernard Ardura, French, President of the Pontifical Council of Historical Sciences and postulator of the beatification cause of the statesman that passed away 50 years ago, on September 4 1963. He was born in Luxembourg in 1886. His father was from Lorraine, his mother from Luxembourg. He carried out his studies in Berlin, Munich, and Strasbourg. He later moved to Metz, administrative centre of the Mosel region in France, where he started working as a young lawyer and where he began his political activity. He served as minister several times more than once headed the government in Paris. His "curriculum" includes persecutions by the Nazis and a multicultural and multilingual education. He is remembered especially for the Declaration drawn up when he was Minister of Foreign Affairs, May 9 1950, considered the point of departure in the building of the European Community (ECSC, 1952; EEC 1957), today’s European Union. Father Ardura, you have been working at the beatification cause of Robert Schuman and you are starting to work on the "positio". Can we look forward to a politician saint? "This what we have been working for. We have examined 40thousand pages and every instance in Schuman’s life to see if in his political action at various levels – at local, national and international level – Christian virtues emerge fully. It’s very complex: Schuman didn’t author theological or religious essays. His spirituality was to be seen in his life that drew inspiration from the Gospel and in his Christian love, put into practice in the city of men, with the sole purpose of the common good, where is to be found the distinctive trait of his existence as a believer". Schuman is known for his Declaration. What is that political initiative so important?"Because with that document, drawn up with Jean Monnet, in agreement with some governments of the time, first and foremost the German government led by chancellor Konrad Adenauer, he contributed to changing the destiny of Europe. The continent had always experienced wars, unspeakable violence, including French-German wars, such as that of 1870, and the two 20th century world wars. The tragedy of the armed conflicts was eventually followed by political humiliations and feelings of revenge and retribution. On the aftermath of World War II Schuman identified the need for an epochal turning point, starting with the reconciliation between France and Germany on the basis of the sharing of concrete interests. Hence the proposal, contained in the 1950 Declaration, to place the production of coal and steel, fundamental materials of the war industry, under the governance of a common authority, open to other European countries. This led to the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community the following year, a pillar of European economic and political integration, which has come down to us with 60 years of development and peace". Schuman, a man of faith and "power". Can these two aspects be reconciled? "It seems that the French statesman has succeeded to. It should be said that since his childhood, and especially thanks to his mother, his entire existence, behaviour and action was shaped on the example of the Gospel. A simple prayer, his sensitivity of the poor and solidarity, and Mass… his vocational thrust, in particular, inspired his decision to dedicate himself fully to serving the civil community, first as Councillor of Mosel and then at the national government in France and at European level. He was eventually elected president of the European Parliamentary Assembly and spent the last years of his life travelling across Europe as promoter and ‘pilgrim’ of united Europe. He was a kind, intelligent, generous and learned Christian. His faith can be measured in this revolution that saw the growth of the European Community: a revolution in the sense that it overcame the vicious cycle of war, bringing peace and cooperation amongst peoples and States". Is he a "contemporary" figure? "Yes. He reminds us of the value of peace and human dignity. He highlights the need for a united and modern Europe. He confirms to us that in order to be a politician you also have to be a man or a woman with deep convictions. He did not hide his faith. He would never have taken decisions that were against his projects and beliefs. In a Europe marked by nationalism and populism Schuman teaches us that in order to walk together, sharing political procedures is not enough. We also have to share concrete interests, noble values and great common goals". 

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