An austere bachelor and a devout Roman Catholic, in 1904 Schuman joined the ultra-Catholic student organization Unitas and became a leading Catholic layman. He was well versed in religious literature, and his pronounced social conscience and commitment to democracy made him a prominent founder of France's Christian Democrat political movement. In 1919 he joined the Catholic Popular Democratic Party and won election to the French Chamber of Deputies, remaining there for forty years. When Germany invaded France in 1940, he refused to join Marshal Henri Philippe Pétain's collaborationist Vichy government but instead returned to Alsace-Lorraine, where his public condemnation of German expulsions of French residents brought his arrest. Escaping the Gestapo, Schuman participated in wartime resistance propaganda efforts, helping to found the Mouvement républicain populaire (MRP, Popular Republican Movement), France's Christian Democratic party.
As French governments rapidly succeeded each other after liberation in 1944, Schuman spent two years as finance minister and seven months as premier before serving as foreign minister from 1948 to 1952. His heritage, liberal Catholicism, and democratic outlook all guided his dedicated efforts to encourage West European reconciliation. Working closely with Jean Monnet, on 9 May 1950 Schuman issued the Schuman Declaration, a public appeal to other European nations to create the ECSC, which evolved into the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1957 and subsequently the European Union (EU). By integrating key sectors of the French, German, Italian, and Benelux economies, the ECSC greatly reduced the possibility of future European hostilities.
From 1955 to 1958 Schuman was French justice minister and from 1955 to 1961 president of the European Movement. In 1958 he became the first president of the European Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg, France, retiring in 1961. Schuman died at Scy-Chazelles, Lorraine, France, on 4 September 1963. In the early twenty-first century, he was under serious consideration for beatification as a Roman Catholic saint.
Kipping, Matthias. Zwischen Kartellen und Konkurrenz: Der Schuman-Plan und die Ursprünge der Europäischen Einigung, 1944–1952 [Between Cartels and Competition: The Schuman Plan and the Origins of European Unification, 1944–1952]. Berlin: Duncker and Humblot, 1996.; Lejeune, René. Robert Schuman: Père de l'Europe 1886–1963; La politique, chemin de sainteté. Paris: Fayard, 2000.; Poidevin, Raymond. Robert Schuman: Homme d'État, 1886–1963. Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1986.; Rochefort, Robert. Robert Schuman. Paris: Cerf, 1968.