NEV – News bulletin of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy–March 2016
- Ecumenism/1. In Rome a meeting between representatives of CEI and of Protestant Churches
- Ecumenism/2. A Methodist and Waldensian delegation received by Pope Francis
- Meetings. Luca Maria Negro received by the Senate President Pietro Grasso
- To be Church Together. Intercultural workshop for the Adventists’ pastors
- Humanitarian corridors. Pope Francis’ and President Mattarella’s appreciation
- Refugees. In Europe, NO to barriers, YES to solidarity and right
- Violence against Women. One year ago the signing of the Ecumenical Appeal
- Jubilee of the Reformation. The initiative of the Bible Society “The Word Lives”
- Baptists. Barletta, March 19, 1866: from yesterday’s carnage to today’s integration
- Brussels attacks. FCEI’s President Luca Negro: “Your wound is also ours”
- Mourning. Pastor Domenico Maselli died at the age of 82.
Ecumenism/1. In Rome a meeting between representatives of CEI and of Protestant Churches
Rome (NEV), March 31, 2016 – On February 29 the president – Msgr. Ambrogio Spreafico – and the director – don Cristiano Bettega – of the Office for Ecumenism and Interreligious dialogue (UNEDI) of the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI), met with the representatives of the churches belonging to the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI) – among whom pastor Luca Maria Negro, FCEI’s President, and pastor Eugenio Bernardini, moderator of the Waldensian Board.
Occasion for the meeting – judged as very positive by all participants – was the organization of next november UNEDI’s conference dedicated to Protestantism. After the past years’ ones on Hebraism and Orthodoxy, this year – on the eve of the Fifth Centenary of the Reformation – UNEDI wanted to seize the occasion to sew up the ecumenical dialogue. The place will be Trento, where the famous Council broke off the communication channels between the Protestant Reformation and the Roman Catholic Church. In addition to specific theological themes, in the meeting were discussed the issues of common witness in the social field, recalling the initiative of ‘humanitarian corridors’ promoted by the FCEI, the Waldensian Board and the Community of St. Egidio, and the ecumenical appeal against the violence on women signed on March 9, 2015.
Ecumenism/2. A Methodist and Waldensian delegation received by Pope Francis
Rome (NEV) March 31, 2016 – “We return with joy and fraternal spirit the Pope’s visit of June 22, 2015 in the Waldensian Temple of Turin, a symbolic place of the Waldensian emancipation after 1848”: these were the words of pastor Eugenio Bernardini announcing the papal audience which took place on March 5. It was the first time that an official delegation of Methodist and Waldensian Churches was received by the pope in Vatican. Two the main subjects discussed during the meeting: the first one was the mission of the Church in an increasingly secularized and far from the Gospel world, a mission which must be characterized by new languages, without proselytizing intents but in the spirit of the free witness in Christ. The other, a cooperation in the service to the world and society, especially towards the tragedy of migration which questions Europe and the Churches.
The protestant delegation donated to Pope Francis a series of prints inspired by the stories of refugees and migrants presented in a container built with the boats wrecked in Lampedusa. The drawings are by Francesco Piobbico, one of the operators of the Mediterranean Hope project of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI), who has been leaving in Lampedusa for the past two years (https://disegnidallafrontiera.wordpress.com/). The Pope offered the delegation the texts of the “Laudato si’ and ‘Evangelii gaudium’ Encyclicals. At the end of the meeting the delegation had lunch in the guestrooms of Santa Marta.
Among the guests we recall the protestants Greetje van der Veer, Aldo Lausarot, Luca Anziani, Jens Hansen, Lothar Vogel, Maria Bonafede, Raul Matta, Claudio Paravati and Paolo Naso. From the Catholic side the participants were, among others, cardinal Kurt Koch – president of the Pontifical Council for the promotion of Christian Unity – and the bishop of Pinerolo, Piergiorgio De Barnardi.
Meetings. Luca Maria Negro received by the Senate President Pietro Grasso
Rome (NEV), March 31, 2016 – On February 25 last, pastor Luca Maria Negro, President of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI) was received by the President of the Italian Senate, Pietro Grasso. Negro – accompanied by the head of the communication and institutional relations of FCEI, Gian Mario Gillio, placed particular emphasis on two themes: religious freedom and ‘humanitarian corridors’.
As per the matter of religious freedom Negro thanked President Grasso for the support received over the years to the initiatives carried out by FCEI and, in particular, he recalled two important conferences promoted by FCEI held at the Senate in the very presence of President Grasso. Negro also expressed satisfaction with the recent Constitutional Court decision which defined contrary to the Italian Constitution the Lombard law on places of worship.
Negro also illustrated to President Grasso the project of ‘humanitarian corridors’, the pilot project promoted by FCEI in collaboration with the Community of St. Egidio with the financial support of the Waldensian Board through the 8 per thousand funds. A high potential experimentation which hopefully will be an example for other European Countries. This initiative allows vulnerable people to reach Italy in dignity and in complete safety.
To be Church Together. Intercultural workshop for the Adventists’ pastors
Rome (NEV), March 31, 2016 – From February 29 to March 2, 2016 took place in Florence at Casa Aurora, the intercultural workshop dedicated to the issues of integration in churches and society. The meeting was aimed at about 40 pastors of the Adventist churches which are registering a growing presence of migrants who now make up the 30% of this Evangelical Church.
Paolo Naso, coordinator of the program ‘To be Church together’ of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI), explained the adopted methodology which is based on the ‘cooperative learning’ already experimented in the so-called LINFA – Intercultural Laboratory for Training and Reception – a method used in the last two years which allowed the training of about seventy local preachers engaged in intercultural activities. Tamara Pispisa, of the Intercultural Service of the Union of the Adventist Churches, underlined the importance of the experience since Adventist pastors feel an urgent need to equip themselves with adequate tools to face a Church growing among migrants and confronting itself with the challenge of constant cross-cultural mediation.
An initiative which strengthens the relationship between FCEI and the Union of Adventist Churches and which shows that Italian protestants can share projects of work, training and commitment.
Humanitarian corridors. Pope Francis’ and President Mattarella’s appreciation
Rome (NEV), March 31, 2016 – On March 6, 2016 Pope Francis during the usual Sunday Angelus said: “As a tangible sign of commitment to peace and life, I would like to mention the initiative of humanitarian corridors for refugees, launched recently in Italy. I also welcome this initiative because it is ecumenical, being supported by the Community of Sant’Egidio, the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy and the Waldensian and Methodist Churches”. Pastor Luca M. Negro, president of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI), wanted to thank the Pope for his words especially because he mentioned the ecumenical dimension of the project which is the witness of what Catholics and Protestants can do together for the common good and the defence of basic humanitarian principles and of international justice. Pastor Eugenio Bernardini, moderator of the Waldensian Board – who just the day before was received in private audience by the Pope – added that there are moments in which Christians together can make a difference and prophetically indicate a path that others do not see. Thanks to the Pope’s words the project will hopefully expand both in Italy and in the rest of Europe.
Last March 3, on occasion of the inauguration of the restored Hospital San Gallicano of Trastevere in Rome – today seat of the National Institute for the Promotion of Health of Migrant populations and for the fight against the diseases linked with poverty – the Italian President Sergio Mattarella said: “Our country in recent years has been, and continues to be, at the forefront in solidarity. So it is in these days with the humanitarian corridors, welcoming migrants and refugees from countries, areas and territories tormented by war. We do not want to boast about this, but we know that in this way we observe our Constitution, the various charters on human rights, the principles of humanity which are the basis for coexistence”. Pastor Luca M. Negro wrote to President Mattarella thanking him for the words of appreciation for the project and for the appeal to observe the Italian Constitution principles that Italian Protestants willingly make their own.
Refugees. In Europe, NO to barriers, YES to solidarity and right
Rome (NEV), March 31, 2016 – “The illusion of some European countries to create a barrier in Turkey in order to stop migrations from the Middle East and North Africa, will turn into a nightmare for thousands of refugees and asylum seekers who will find themselves trapped into huge reception centres, with no legal protection and exposed to the arbitrary judgement of police released from European Union’s rules and principles”. This was the statement of Pastor Luca Maria Negro, President of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI) on the eve of the summit between EU and Turkey regarding the management of migrations’ flows. “The road is not that of barriers – Negro continued – but that of humanitarian corridors which allow asylum seekers to safely reach Europe, present their application and benefit of the protection that international conventions assure them. It is surely a costly road which requires a great effort of European solidarity but it is also the only one consistent with the ethical and legal principles on which the Union is based. FCEI feels in full solidarity with the churches and the ecumenical organizations engaged in reception programs. The experience of ‘humanitarian corridors’ that FCEI, the Community of Sant’Egidio and the Waldensian board are realizing together, is just an example that there are other practicable paths that can be followed, counting on the generosity of civil society and on its capability to receive and integrate people.”
Violence against Women. One year ago the signing of the Ecumenical Appeal
Rome (NEV), March 31, 2016 – Exactly one year ago twenty, on March 9, 2015, representatives of Italian Christian Churches of several confessions, signed – during a solemn ceremony at the Sala Zuccari of the Senate’s Giustiniani Palace – the Ecumenical Appeal “Against violence on women”. The new initiative was promoted by the Federation of Protestant Churches In Italy (FCEI) and immediately accepted by the Catholic Church: together with the National Office for ecumenism and interreligious dialogue (UNEDI) of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI), a working group prepared a document in which violence against women is described as a national emergency because of the thousands women who suffer violence and the hundreds who are killed. Pastor Maria Bonafede recalled that the Appeal was mentioned during the meeting of last February 29 between FCEI and CEI, in which the participants renewed the commitment to work for its implementation, starting from a more careful and common pastoral addressed to people and families. On December 2015 also the FCEI’s Assembly stressed the importance to create ecumenical desks for the drafting of documents about social and spiritual issues on which Italian Christians can express common words to support the realization of national initiatives on the issue of violence against women.
Jubilee of the Reformation. The initiative of the Italian Bible Society “The Word Lives”
Rome (NEV), March 31, 2016 – In Rome, on March 11, started the initiative “The Word lives’, promoted by the Bible Society in Italy (SBI) and various Italian Evangelical Churches, to present the first and already conspicuous fruits of the new translation of the Bible, edited for the occasion of the 500th of the Reformation in 2017. The initiative foresees three meetings which are not intended to be academic conferences, but want to give space to the listening of the biblical text and let people taste the sound of the new translation, as explained by Valdo Bertalot, general secretary of SBI. During the first meeting of March 11, there was the reading of the Letter of Paul to the Philippians with the participation of Giancarlo Rinaldi, emeritus professor of History of the Christianity at the Oriental University of Naples and, for the musical part, of the Opera House Academy. On April 8 there will be the reading of the Letter to James introduced by pastor Eric Noffke, president of the SBI, with the musical participation of Aron and Elia Chiesa; finally, on May 13, Luca De Santis professor of New Testament at the Angelicum University of Rome will present the Gospel of Mark with the intervention of the Ensemble à corde.
The project of a new translation of the Bible in view of the 500th of the Reformation was born in 2013 and – as Noffke explained – wants to be the gift of the Protestants to the Italian people as a sign of what is the essence of the Reformation: the return to the centrality of the Scripture in the church. The publication of the New Testament and Psalms is expected by the 31st ot October 2017; the entire Bible for 2023.
Baptists. Barletta, March 19, 1866: from yesterday’s carnage to today’s integration
Rome (NEV), March 16.2016 – The Baptist Church of Barletta (Apulia) on Saturday March 19 last remembered a dramatic event of its history, that is the lynching which, exactly one hundred and fifty years ago, claimed the lives of six persons of the town. Title of the initiatives “From massacre to integration”: from yesterday’s enmity and lack of communication, to today’s dialogue and collaboration between Catholic and Protestants. The carnage was reconstructed time ago by Professor Domenico Maselli in his book “Between Awakening and Millennium: History of the Christian Brethren Churches 1836-1886” (Claudiana). The historical contest in which the events took place was that of an open hostility, fuelled by the local Catholic clergy, against the evangelicals and their freedom guaranteed by the law of the liberal State. In short a process began which, by appealing to the religious sentiment, transformed the small group of evangelicals in the scapegoat for all the difficulties experienced by the local population (among these, a cholera epidemic and a famine that hit the city between 1865 and 1866 and of which – as openly told from the pulpits of many local parishes – the presence of the evangelicals would be the cause). So it was that a popular uprising broke out, the police were unable to repress it, a fire was set to the evangelical worship place and several persons were lynched, among whom five evangelicals killed by beating and a sixth person, catholic, mistaken for evangelical.
The memorial day was celebrated in the deconsecrated church of St. Mary of Nazareth, near which stood the evangelical worship place in 1866. Among the participants pastor Martin Ibarra, historian of the Baptist churches, professor Leo Lestingi of the Theological Faculty of Apulia, Giovanni Arcidiacono, vice president of the Christian Evangelical Baptist Union of Italy (UCEBI), pastor Raffaele Volpe, president of UCEBI.
Mourning. Pastor Domenico Maselli died at the age of 82.
Rome (NEV), March 31, 2016 – On March 4 died, at the age of 82, Professor Domenico Maselli. Leading figure of the Italian evangelism, exponent of the Free Churches and pastor of the Waldensian Church of Lucca, in his life Maselli managed to combine the theological and spiritual experience of the Awakening evangelism with the historical Protestant Churches. Professor of History of Christianity at the University of Florence, Member of the Parliament from 1994 to 2001, Maselli was president of the Federation of Protestant Churches (FCEI) from 2006 to 2009. Pastor Luca Maria Negro, current president of FCEI, remembered him with these words: “I am deeply saddened the loss of Domenico Maselli whom I heard for the last time the very day of his death. He called me to speak about one of his projects: the twinning between Lucca and Geneva, the town were many protestants of Lucca found refuge at the time of the Counter-Reformation. Domenico Maselli was a multifaceted personality: great pastor, historian of the evangelical movement in Italy, Member of the Parliament active in various field, especially in the issue of religious freedom. He was promoter of a wide-ranging Ecumenism, first of all among the evangelical churches, but also towards Catholicism”. It was with this spirit that on March 7, in the basilica of St. Frediano, from whose pulpit in the XVI century the Italian Reformer Pier Martire Vermigli preached, took place the funeral service which was held by pastors Mario Affuso and Paolo Ricca. More than 400 people were present to witness his role of trait d’union between the charismatic evangelism and the historical one.
Among his books, published with ‘Claudiana’, we recall: “Between Awakening and Millennium: History of the Christian Brethren Churches 1836-1886” (1974); ‘Freedom of the Word. History of the Christian Bretheren Churches, 1886-1946” (1978); “Villa Betania, a faith adventure. History of the Evangelical Hospital of Naples” (1989); “History of the Italian Baptists – 1873-1923”
Brussels attacks. FCEI’s President Luca Negro: “Your wound is also ours”
Rome (NEV), March 31, 2016 – With regard to the terrorist attacks occurred on March 22 in Brussels, closeness and deep sympathy was expressed in a letter sent to Pastor Steven Fuite, President of the United Protestant Church of Belgium (EPUB), by pastor Luca Maria Negro, president of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI).
“Your wound is also ours. We are appalled and horrified by this latest act of terrorism directed against innocent people”, wrote Negro, emphasizing how the city of Brussels, hit by these “heinous acts “, is also the “capital of Europe and symbol of a community of states and peoples to which also Italy belongs”.
Negro has condemned in the strongest way “this terrible act that touches our hearts and our consciences,” while, “gathered in prayer in this Passion week, we turn our thoughts to the victims, their families, their loved ones and their friends, to all the Belgian people and all of you, brothers and sisters of the Protestant churches”.
“We reaffirm our unwavering commitment to dialogue among peoples, religions and cultures, against all fundamentalism, radicalization and exploitation of God’s name – continues the letter -. Together with you, we will continue to witness in Europe and in the world that it is possible to build roads of justice and dialogue, respect for human life and coexistence between men and women who, though belonging to different religious and cultural traditions, feel the common need to be united against violence and profane terror sown in the name of a religious ideology that we reject and condemn as we bear witness that God is love, life and grace”.
** Promoted by the organizations that are part of the network Asylum Table – among which also appears the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI) – on March 1st was held, at the ‘Hall of the Fallen in Nassirya’ of the Republic Senate, a conference to denounce the critical state of the hot spots: refugees who are not allowed to present the application for asylum are at the same time given a decree of refusal which forces them to leave the premises with no assistance at all. During the Conference, Senator Luigi Manconi, President of the Senate Human Rights Commission, recalled as a good practice the experience of ‘human corridors’ promoted by FCEI, the Community of Sant’Egidio and the Waldensian Board: “Despite the limited numbers of people involved this is the right choice to make and must be looked at carefully in order to replicate it on a larger scale in Italy and in other European Countries”.
** A change in the editorship of ‘Riforma’, the weekly magazine of the Baptist, Methodist and Waldensian Churches (BMV): Luca Maria Negro left to be president of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI) and will be replaced by Alberto Corsani who has been member of the editorial staff since the times of ‘L’eco delle Valli Valdesi – La Luce’, the former weekly replaced by ‘Riforma’. The change of direction officially happened on March 4.
** The now customary “Easter Convention” – a day of meetings, worship, celebration born in the context of the Ghanaian Protestant Churches in Italy – this year was held on Sunday March 20 in Casalmaggiore (Parma). In the spirit of “Being Church Together” in the last years also the Italian Methodist and Waldensian churches joined in, so much so that the preaching was entrusted this year to pastor Eugenio Bernardini, moderator of the Waldensian Board, while the Methodist Church Works’ organization in Italy was represented by its president, the deacon Alessandra Trotta. A way to celebrate Easter in a common spirit of “Resurrection” and hence in the hope of a new impulse for the life of the churches.
** Also this year Easter brought a small but significant ecumenical gesture in Pinerolo (Turin). The Waldensian and the Catholic Churches exchanged as a reciprocal gift the bread and the wine for the Lord’s Supper. During the Saturday eve (March 26) a Waldensian delegation brought to the Catholic Cathedral the wine for the celebration and on Easter (March 27) a Catholic delegation joined the Waldensian service bringing the bread. “The exchange, without touching or modifying any doctrinal question, opens to fraternity – said Waldensian pastor Gianni Genre – and has a very strong symbolic value, firstling of something bigger to come”. The same gifts were exchanged also in Campobasso, involving the Catholic diocese, the Waldensian Church and the Pentecostal Church of the Reconciliation.
** In August 2013, the Synod of the Waldensian and Methodist churches officially established the “Day of legality”, extending to the whole national territory the initiative born within the Methodist and Waldensian Churches of Southern Italy since 2010. This year the day fell on April 3 with the title “Do you not want to fear authority? Do good” (Romans 13:3). “We have to be citizens of the kingdom of heaven by paying taxes…” said pastor Roger Marchetti in the homiletics prepared for the IV Day of legality, celebrated with several events throughout the Country.