Jacques Delors, major figure of social Christianity

Jacques Delors, major figure of social Christianity

If there was only one, it would be him. Among the sparse ranks of left-wing Catholic leaders, no one other than Jacques Delors rose so high in the exercise of responsibilities, first in France, then at the head of the European Commission (1985-1995). “Being a believer, being a Christian, it’s not important to me, it’s vital,” the man who gave up running in the 1995 presidential election liked to say.

Encouraged by his father, he joined the Banque de France and owed most of his intellectual and spiritual corpus to Christian think tanks such as the Christian Workers’ Youth (JOC) or La vie nouvelle. In the latter, inspired by the personalism of Emmanuel Mounier, he becomes friends with several Dominicans. He also likes to talk with Jesuits.

Christian unionism opened the path to politics for him. He was active in the CFTC before joining the CFDT, born from a split with the Christian union. A choice that John Paul II bluntly reproaches him, in Brussels, during his visit to the European institutions in 1985. “The Pope was angry with him for dropping the CFTC. For him, it was necessary to visibly claim his Christian faith . Jacques Delors opted rather for a certain discretion in the commitment, “burying the leaven in the dough”” summarizes Jérôme Vignon, who was a member of his cabinet, first at the Ministry of Finance (1981-1984), then in Brussels.

Jacques Delors, a pragmatic believer

For him, there was no question of reciting a chapel catechism. The Church is universal or it is not. Choosing to surround himself with believers and non-believers alike, he is wary of theories and ideologies, of Marxism as well as the ultraliberalism of Margaret Thatcher, with whom he has difficult relations. He liked to repeat: “Facts are our masters. »

As a Christian, he is not one of those who expound on the social doctrine of the Church. “However, it was inhabited by it,” assures Jérôme Vignon. As a “social engineer”, as he defined himself, society constituted for him a living being rich in its intermediary bodies, unions, parties, associations. » Few post-war political leaders have embodied like him the coherent alliance of a deeply held Catholic faith and unfailing pragmatism. A rarity which marks its French and European destiny.

Anxious by nature, he showed concern for the future of Europe. In 1993, when everything seemed to be succeeding in the European Union, he said: “If we do not succeed in giving Europe a soul, we will fail. » Will the prediction be verified in the elections next June? The former President of the Italian Council, Enrico Letta, president of the Jacques-Delors Institute, has no doubts about its sustainability: “As Jacques Delors observed, it is only in crisis situations that Europe finds his soul. And this is experienced over time. » It remains to find great voices to carry it. Hoping that the European campaign does not confirm that it is sorely lacking.

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