Written by the American Waldensian Society
Thanks to years of ecumenical engagement by a committed Waldensian pastor, the first truly ecumenical center in Italy is now in the process of opening in Lucca in the province of Tuscany.
For the first time anywhere in Italy, the city council of Lucca has approved a resolution calling for the establishment of an ecumenical center in their city. This vote of the Lucca city council is a major step toward the realization of a dream of Domenico Maselli, the recently deceased pastor of the Waldensian Church in Lucca. In addition to being a Waldensian pastor, Domenico Maselli was a prominent figure in Italian Protestantism, a member of the Italian Parliament and a former president of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy.
"The seed of this dream was planted in the early years of the ecumenical movement in a community which was already very open to dialogue between Christians," explained members of the council of the Waldensian church of Lucca and of the cultural center Pietro Martire Vermigli. When a new Roman Catholic bishop, Giuliano Agresti, arrived in Lucca, he and Domenico Maselli began to make plans to build an inter-confessional center in Lucca that would be open to the secular world beyond the churches.
With the approval of the resolution, the city council formally asked the city's mayor to establish an "ecumenical center for inter-confessional and cultural dialogue, to spread the values of hospitality, cross-cultural learning, mutual acceptance and understanding."
The groundbreaking ceremony for the new center will take place November 1, 2017, a date which was chosen by Domenico Maselli to connect the founding of the new center with the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.
There are other ecumenical centers in Italy all of which in one way or another are ministries of the Roman Catholic Church. This will be the first ecumenical center which will be sponsored by the Waldensians and other Protestants as well as by Roman Catholic Church.
Historians consider Lucca to have been an important center for the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century. Not incidentally the first Italian translation of the Bible by a Protestant was done by an Italian Protestant who had roots in Lucca, Giovanni Diodati. His translation is still used in many Italian Protestant congregations.
Domenico Maselli was socially committed, biblically informed and, above all, ecumenically-minded. He symbolized to his American friends all that they love about the Waldensian Church and Italian Protestantism generally.
Domenico Maselli died March 4, 2016.