Do you live in Europe? How are you preparing for the upcoming elections? Do you know who Robert Schuman was? Do you know how faith can inspire your political engagement? And that peace is necessary for climate mitigation?

On the road to the European elections, to be held June 6-9, we want to talk about Robert Schuman, a founding father of Europe, declared “venerable” by Pope Francis, who inspires us on Europe’s contemporary challenges, especially on the need to phase out fossil fuels and promote renewable energies and biodiversity, in order to build peace.

In January of 2020, Pope Francis said in his address to the members of the diplomatic corps: “In 1949, with the creation of the Council of Europe and the subsequent adoption of the European Convention on Human Rights, the foundations were laid for the process of European integration, which saw in the Declaration of the then French Foreign Minister, Robert Schuman, a fundamental pillar”. 

Schuman stated that “world peace cannot be safeguarded without creative efforts commensurate with the dangers that threaten it”. The founding fathers of modern Europe had an awareness that the continent could recover from the wounds of war and the new divisions that arose only in a gradual process of communion of ideals and resources.

Robert Schuman, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, issued the Declaration bearing his name on May 9, 1950. In it, he proposed the creation of a European Coal and Steel Community whose members (at that time France, Italy, West Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) would pool coal and steel production.

This treaty aimed, among other things, to build peace through trade in coal and steel. Schuman dedicated his life to building peace in Europe thanks to his Christian faith. In his book For Europe he said, “In a paradox that would surprise us if we were not Christians (even unconsciously Christians), let us reach out hands to our yesterday’s enemies, not only to reconcile with them, but to build tomorrow’s Europe together.”

Today Europeans are called to reflect on their role as Christians in participating in civic and political life, through the figure of Robert Schuman, who committed himself to peace after World War II through the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community. 

Europe, like the rest of the world, is heavily dependent on fossil fuels, which are at the root of the climate crisis and the source of numerous geopolitical conflicts and dependencies. Now that war has returned to Europe, it is important to consider the role of fossil fuels in modern warfare.

Pope Francis and Schuman encourage us to “build tomorrow’s Europe together”. In Laudato Si’, Francis states, “There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy” (LS, 26).