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Robert Schuman in August 1949. Credit: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-19000-2453 (CC-BY-SA 3.0)

Vatican City, Jun 19, 2021 / 05:45 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has declared venerable the French statesman Robert Schuman, known as a key “founding father” of the European Union.

After a June 19 meeting with Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the pope advanced the sainthood causes of Schuman and six others.

“Schuman dedicated his life to serving the common good, seeking peace and reconciliation with Germany to create a community of European states,” Fr. Bernard Ardura, an official in charge of proposed French canonizations, told AFP.

Schuman’s efforts were “the work of a Christian, which serves as an example,” said Fr. Ardura, even if the statesman “remained very discreet about his personal life and his faith.”

Robert Schuman was born in Luxembourg in 1886. He had family roots in Lorraine, contested territory lost by France to Germany in the Franco-Prussian War. After Lorraine returned to France, Schuman served as one of the region’s Members of Parliament, in the Christian Democrat political tradition.

At one point during the Second World War, he was arrested by the Gestapo and secretly imprisoned, according to his biography on the website of the Robert Schuman European Centre.

He was France’s Minister of Foreign Relations when he announced the forming of the European Steel and Coal Community on May 9, 1950. The move is considered a first step towards the creation of the European Union.

Schuman was also a key negotiator for the North Atlantic Treaty and the European Coal and Steel Community. He served as the first President of the European Parliament which named him “Father of Europe” when he left office.

Schuman died in the Diocese of Matz in 1963. His cause for sainthood began there over 30 years ago.

With the new decree, Pope Francis also recognized a miracle attributed to Venerable Johann Philipp Jeningen, a 17th century Jesuit priest from Bavaria, Germany, paving the way for his beatification.

Fr. Jeningen was known for his holiness, asceticism, and missionary efforts. He dreamed of being sent as a missionary to India in the footsteps of his hero St. Francis Xavier, but instead was called to create a Marian shrine in neighboring Ellwangen, Our Lady of Schönenberg, which drew many pilgrims.

Ten religious sisters martyred during the Soviet occupation in Poland will also be beatified with the papal authorization of the decree.

Sister M. Paschalis Jahn and nine companions of the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Elizabeth were killed by Red Army soldiers in 1945 as they served the sick and vulnerable. One of the martyred sisters, Sister Rosaria (Elfrieda) Schilling, was raped by about 30 Red Army soldiers before she was shot.

The sainthood causes of three other religious sisters also advanced with the decree. The pope recognized the heroic virtue of Aniela Róża Godecka (1861-1937), who founded the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Poland; Italian nun Orsola Donati (1849-1935) of the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Mother of Sorrows; and Sister Maria Stella of Jesus (1899-1982) of the Congregation of the Religious of Mary Immaculate in Spain.

Servant of God Fr. Severino Fabriani (1792-1857), the founder of the Congregation of the Daughters of Providence for the deaf in Italy, was also declared venerable.

Pope Francis spoke highly of Robert Schuman in a letter signed on Oct. 22, encouraging Europeans to “rediscover the path of fraternity that inspired and guided the founders of modern Europe, beginning precisely with Robert Schuman.”

St. John Paul II also praised Schuman in 2003 for spending his political life “in the service of the fundamental values of freedom and solidarity, understood fully in the light of the Gospel.”