News bulletin of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy
Religious freedom. FCEI President Aquilante received by the Senate President Grasso
Rome (NEV), November 30, 2013 – The President of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI), pastor Massimo Aquilante, was received on November 13th by the President of the Senate, Pietro Grasso. Theme of the meeting was the law on religious freedom. According to the Protestant churches there is a serious gap in the Italian legal system which still refers to ancient rules on “allowed cults” of the fascist period. Aquilante reiterated the urgent need for a law on freedom of religion and conscience that “expresses and materializes the constitutional principles of the secular state and the acknowledgement of religious pluralism which is an increasingly important feature of the Italian contemporary society”. President Grasso, for his part, showed great interest on the issue.
President Aquilante was accompanied by lawyer Ilaria Valenzi, consultant of the of the Evangelical Churches’ Commission for the relations with the State (CCERS); Paolo Naso, coordinator of FCEI’s Research Commission; and Gian Mario Gillio, responsible for FCEI’s external relations.
WCC X Assembly. Waldensian Valeria Fornerone elected in the Central Committee
Rome (NEV), November 30, 2013 – The X General Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) held in Busan (South Korea) from October 30 to November 8, elected the Waldensian Valeria Fornerone in the Central Committee. This body, which could be assimilated to a ‘parliament’, is the highest authority of the WCC between one assembly and the other. Fornerone, a young lay woman born in the ‘Waldensian Valleys’ in Piedmont, is also member of the General Committee of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI).
Philippines. FCEI launches a subscription after devastating typhoon Haiyan
Rome (NEV), November 30, 2013 – The devastating typhoon “Haiyan”, which affected large areas of the Philippines between 7 and 8 of November, caused a great humanitarian emergency, so as severe damage to the central regions of the Asian country. Only a few days later the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI), expressing its solidarity with the Filipino people and its proximity to the many Filipino Evangelical communities in Italy, launched a subscription to help people affected by the typhoon. Pastor Massimo Aquilante, president of FCEI, called on the churches to address their prayers to the God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ, as the God of reconciliation and fullness of life, quoting the invocation of Psalm 130: ‘O Lord, I cry to you from the depths. Hear my cry, Let your ears be attentive to my cry for help!'”.
The FCEI promotes fund raisings in cases of humanitarian emergencies, in cooperation with Action by Churches Together (ACT) Alliance, a humanitarian agency sponsored by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) (actalliance.org).
Bible/1. To promote it’s knowledge the Ministry of Education established a commission
Rome (NEV), November 30, 2013 – To promote the knowledge of the Bible, a fundamental text to understand the history, cultures and traditions of yesterday and today: this is the objective of the Memorandum of Understanding, signed for the first time in 2010 between the Ministry of Education, University and Research (MIUR) and the secular association “Biblia”, and renovated last November 13. “It ‘s an important cultural signal – said Paolo Naso, coordinator of the Research Commission of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI), on behalf of “Biblia” – which reveals a new interest in the Bible, its spiritual, narrative, social and cultural contents. The ministerial initiative is all the more commendable when one considers the very low level of biblical knowledge of the Italians in general and of students in particular”.
As it was the case in the previous three years, in agreement with the Ministry of Education, Biblia will organize meetings and seminars aimed at training teachers interested in offering their students learning modules related to the study of the Bible.
Bible/2. 30th Anniversary of the Italian Bible Society
Rome (NEV), November 30, 2013 – On December 2nd the Bible Society in Italy (SBI) will turn 30 years old. It was founded in 1983 with the aim of the widest possible dissemination of the Holy Scriptures, also through activities and initiatives for the promotion of the Bible. The SBI is an independent Christian association, not tied to any particular confession, in fact it includes various Evangelical denominations, Catholics and Orthodox. The SBI was established as a national and ecumenical expression of the old British and Foreign Bible Society (SBBF) present in Rome since 1870 and in Italy since the Risorgimento.
Waldensian Pastor Eric Noffke, president of the association, explained that SBI was born, among other things, to carry out the ambitious project of the inter-confessional translation in the current language of the Bible, whose first edition goes back to 1985, a way to involve Catholics and other Christian denominations in a common project. Valdo Bertalot, SBI general secretary and Italian director of SBBF, in expressing gratitude for the commitment of the Bible Societies, a commitment that enables many more people to read the Bible in their own language, announced a new protestant translation of the Bible in Italian in view of 500th Anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.
Women. FDEI publishes the notebook “16 days to combat violence”
Rome (NEV), November 30, 2013 – “No longer alone”, this is the title of the booklet “16 days for overcoming violence 2013” prepared also this year by the Federation of Evangelical Women in Italy (FDEI) to accompany through prayer and reflection the period from November 25 – International day to eliminate violence against women – to December 10, International day for human rights. The period also includes the World Aids Day on December 1st. The booklet contains a collection of 16 stories of women freely drawn from various stories, several excerpts from the Istanbul Convention of the Council of Europe (also approved by the Italian Parliament in June) with actions to be taken by European governments, as well as biblical passages, reflections, prayers and proposals for concrete actions. It has been designed not only for women or women’s groups of Evangelical churches, but for all the communities and local churches, including the grass-roots Catholic communities, who want to tackle the subject.
A comment of Gianna Urizio, president of FDEI, welcoming the many initiatives occurred on occasion of the Day of November 25, draws the attention on the risk that after that day interest on the subject may drop while that should be the moment to start working to promote a long and intense cultural work that captures the linkages and the root causes of violence.
Culture. A new Interfaith Jury at the Film Festival of Turin
Rome (NEV), November 30, 2013 – For the first time at the Turin Film Festival (TFF), at its 31st edition, an Interfaith Jury awarded the “Prize for the respect of minorities and secularity”: a new side prize promoted by the local Waldensian Church and by the local Jewish Community – with the support of the Interfaith town committee – in the city that first saw the granting of the civil rights to the two religious minorities in 1848.
The new prize was awarded to the film “La plaga” directed by Neus Ballùs (Spain, 2013). With this new Interfaith Prize the TFF is aligned to the major international film festivals, where interfaith and ecumenical juries already award similar prizes and puts the city of Turin at the forefront as regards the connection between churches and cinema, cultures and faiths.
The Interfaith Committee of the City of Turin, a body set up on the occasion of the Olympic Winter Games of 2006 in order to assure spiritual assistance, over the years has become a tool for comparison and inter-religious dialogue. It includes representatives of Christianity (Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox), Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons).
** The new spokespersons of the National Campaign “I’m Italy too”, for the citizenship right of migrants, are the Mayor of Milan, Giuliano Pisapia and the publisher Carlo Feltrinelli. The promoters of the campaign – among whom the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI) – in a meting held last October 31 elected the new representatives to replace Graziano Delrio appointed as Minister of the Republic. In expressing appreciation for the work done by the sponsoring organizations, in view of the forthcoming elections for the renewal of the European Parliament, Pisapia and Feltrinelli announced their decision to launch the Campaign in an European dimension with a first major event on December 18, the UN International Day for the rights of the migrants.
** ”Christ cannot be divided” this is the theme taken from the first letter to the Corinthians (1:1-17) proposed this year by a Canadian ecumenical group for the Week of prayer for the unity of Christians to be celebrated worldwide from 18 to 25 of January 2014. In Italy, as usual, the booklet accompanying the Week is edited by the Bible Society in Italy (SBI). Pastor Massimo Aquilante, president of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI), bishop Mansueto Bianchi, president of the Episcopal commission for ecumenism and dialogue of the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI), and the Metropolitan Gennadios Zervos, Orthodox Archbishop for Italy and Malta and Exarch for Southern Europe, jointly present the Italian edition.
** Following the heavy storms that struck the North of Sardinia in mid November, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency for Italy (ADRA Italia) launched a subscription and contacted at the same time the Civil Protection communicating its willingness to cooperate in the aid actions. To know more in details please visit the website.
** Also this year the Christian Action for the abolition of torture (ACAT) awarded the best degree thesis of the year against torture and death penalty. The initiative, now at its 4th edition, is part of a broader program to raise awareness among young people to these issues and is supported, since its beginning, by the Waldensian Church with the funds of the 8 per thousand of the Income revenue tax. The awards “A degree to stop the torture” and “A degree to abolish death penalty” were conferred respectively, for the academic year 2011/2012, to Sofia Poppi with the thesis “Rapes of War – An analysis on the issue of sexual violence in armed contexts” (Alma Mater Studiorum – University of Bologna) and to Rossella Masi with a thesis entitled “The killing State – a reflection on death penalty in the twenty-first century” (LUMSA University of Palermo).