News bulletin of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy
- Ecumenism. Pope Francis will visit the Waldensian Church in Turin on June 22, 2015
- Women: An ecumenical appeal against violence on women
- Women: The Italian Women Federation’s invitation to occupy a seat during the 8 March
- Religious Buildings. Protestants’ petition to Prime Minister Renzi against the Lombard law
- Migration. From Lampedusa to Mexico: witness and engagement “on borders”
- Mediterranean Migrations. “What the Mediterranean Sea can teach us”: a meeting in Scicli
- Eight per thousand. The 2015 Protestants’ campaigns kick off
Ecumenism. Pope Francis will visit the Waldensian Church in Turin on June 22
Rome (NEV), March 31, 2015 – The date is fixed and also the program of the visit which may well be defined ‘historic’. On June 22 Pope Francis will step into the Waldensian church located in Corso Vittorio Emanuele in the very centre of Turin, to greet the world oldest reformed community (integrated in 1975 with the Italian Methodist Church). The occasion is given by the pilgrimage for the exhibition of the Shroud and the celebration for the bicentennial of Don Bosco’s birth.
The moderator of the Waldensian Church, Pastor Eugenio Bernardini, announced that the visit will be characterized by simplicity and ecumenical brotherhood which has been increasing and strengthening in the last two years, according to the style of the Waldensian Church and of Pope Francis himself.
The Archbishop of Turin, Msgr. Cesare Nosiglia, in presenting the visit at the Holy see press office on March 25, underlined the importance of this visit which reflects the papal open and ecumenical spirit. Pope Francis has been knowing the Waldensian community since his bishop’s ministry in Argentina and Uruguay, where is present an ‘Iglesia Valdense’. Since his election he repeatedly showed friendship and appreciation for the Waldensian Church and shortly met moderator Bernardini on September 2013. No pope ever before visited a Waldensian church, “but there is always a first time – said Bernardini – and the Spirit will shows us the roads of the ecumenical journey we want to cover together”.
Women: An ecumenical appeal against violence on women
Rome (NEV) March 31, 2015 – On March 9, at the Republic Senate, representatives of many Christian Churches in Italy signed the ecumenical appeal “Against violence on women”. The appeal opens with the complaint: “Violence against women is a national emergency. Every year in Italy thousands of women suffer from men’s violence and more than one hundred are killed. The main place where all this happens is within the family: this is a proved and most serious fact”. The initiative was launched by the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI) and immediately accepted by the Catholic Church: together with the National Office for Ecumenism and Interfaith dialogue (UNEDI) of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI), a working group elaborated the appeal signed, apart from Catholics and Protestants, also by a large number of Orthodox faith communities. To present the text were, on behalf of FCEI, Debora Spini and Waldensian pastor Maria Bonafede. The latter underlined the necessity that Churches accept the responsibility and engage themselves in spreading among believers an exegesis of the Bible which empowers women. Msgr. Mansueto Bianchi, president of UNEDI, said that the signing of the appeal comes from afar to hopefully become leaven of freedom. Methodist pastor Massimo Aquilante, president of FCEI, declared that when the initiative started nobody would have imagined the large adhesion it collected from the Christian oikoumene. A message of Laura Boldrini, speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, reached the participants. In the message Boldrini spoke of “a sign of hope which strengthens the Italian 8 March, in a moment in which terrorism and religious fanaticism try, worldwide, to use the name of God to justify violence”.
The ceremony was accompanied by the music performed by cellist Kyung Mi Lee.
Women: Italian Women Federation’s invitation to occupy a seat during the 8 March
Rome (NEV), March 31, 2015 – On the occasion of the International Women’s Day, the Italian Protestant Women Federation (FDEI), in a press release, invited all the Italian Protestant churches who joined the campaign “This seat is taken” to dedicate a special space, during the worship services of Sunday 8 of March, to the theme of the violence against women as a denial of the person’s rights. The national campaign – which FDEI promptly joined since last November 25 – was launched by journalist Maria Andaloro and rapidly spread throughout the Country (www.postoccupato.it). More than one hundred churches adhered to the campaign and are promoting it also in the catholic and the secular milieu.
Religious Buildings. Protestants’ petition to Prime Minister Renzi against the Lombard rule
Rome (NEV), March 31, 2015 – On 27 February, pastor Massimo Aquilante, President of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI) and of the Commission of Evangelical Churches for the relations with the State (CCERS), sent to Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, a petition to urge the Government’s action before the Constitutional Court for the unconstitutionality of the Lombard regional rule which foresees ‘new principles for the planning of religious facilities’. ‘As protestants – explained pastor Aquilante – we immediately denounced that the ruling violates the principle of equal treatment of religious confessions other than Catholic’. FCEI and CCERS for many years have been monitoring the issues connected to the right of religious freedom. The instance of appeal advanced by FCEI and CCERS is complementary to the one already sent to the Government by the exponents of the opposition of the Regional Council of Lombardy.
Great was the satisfaction of FCEI and CCERS for the favorable resolution of the Board of Ministers of March 12, relevant to the suspension of the so called ‘anti-mosques’ law, even if ‘suspension is not yet cancellation – declared Aquilante – and therefore we’ll continue our engagement, trusting on the support of those political and civil society forces who have clear that religious freedom doesn’t only concern believers’.
Migration. From Lampedusa to Mexico: witness and engagement “on borders”
Rome (NEV), March 31, 2015 – From February 28 to March 4, the president of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI), pastor Massimo Aquilante, went to the USA to visit protestant churches and associations engaged in the “ministries on the borders”, in favor of migrants and refugees arriving from Mexico. Central stages of the journey were El Paso in Texas and Nogales in Arizona.
President Aquilante was received by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCCCUSA), which – as FCEI does – recognizes the issue of global migrations as a priority for churches. The mission of Pastor Aquilante, accompanied by Paolo Naso, coordinator of the FCEI project ‘To be church together’ and by pastor Francis Rivers, director of the American Waldensian Society, was connected with the project ‘Mediterranean Hope’, started by FCEI almost a year ago, a program of dialogue with local citizens and of migrants reception.
Among the practical results of the visit, an “agreement of brotherhood” between NCCCUSA and FCEI to promote joint actions and the exchange of volunteers, experts and witnesses. “The situations are different, but in front of global migration we are called to seek global solutions”, concluded Aquilante.
Mediterranean Migrations. “What the Mediterranean Sea can teach us”: a meeting in Scicli
Rome (NEV), March 31, 2015 – “What the Mediterranean Sea can teach us”: this is the title of the meeting held on 17 and 18 of March at the ‘Casa delle Culture’ in Scicli (Sicily), promoted by the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI), within the frame of the project Mediterranean Hope (MH), in cooperation with the magazine Limes and the Mediterranean Study Centre of Genoa.
In presence of institutional authorities, scholars, students, social workers and migrant guests of the house, pastor Massimo Aquilante, FCEI’s president, referring to Matthew 22:2-10 and Luke 14:15-24, illustrated the spirit with which FCEI faced the migratory phenomenon in the last three decades: not only reception, integration and rights but also humanity, dignity, future, witness, justice and not least trust, hope, salvation. An approach that certainly cannot be assimilated to the market logic.
Appreciation for the project MH, was expressed by the Prefect Mario Morcone, director of the Department for Civil Freedom and Immigration of the Ministry of Interior, as well as by the prefect of Ragusa, Annunziato Vardé. The meeting continued with talks by experts and researchers in the awareness that institutions, civil society and research need to integrate. Among the speakers Paolo Naso, of the FCEI Studies Commission, sociologist Andrea Torre, anthropologist Pino Schirripa, Filippo Maronta, journalist of the magazine Limes, migration expert Fulvio Vassallo Paleologo, jurist Alessandra Sciurba.
The event ended at the Grand Theatre of Scicli, where there was a meeting with the secondary schools of the city on issues such as integration, future and work with and for migrants. A concert of the Santino Spinelli Band, one of the most famous voices of Rom music, concluded the event. The conference proceedings will shortly be published on a special dossier by the magazine Limes.
Eight per thousand. The 2015 protestants’ campaigns kick off
Rome (NEV), March 31, 2015 – Pastor Eugenio Bernardini, moderator of the Waldensian Board, by launching the new eight per thousand campaign of the Waldensian Church (Union of the Methodist and Waldensian churches), explained that this year the campaign is dedicated to the needs, the wishes and the aspirations of men, women and children who thanks to a social, educational or charity project succeed in improving their lives. What we do – continued Bernardini – is to simply give back to others what we receive from tax payers through projects that have positive effects on the life quality of people and their communities.
This year the eight per thousand messages in favour on Methodists and Waldensians, will appear on 80 national newspapers, radio and tv programs, and websites. Advertising costs do not exceed 5% of the funds received by the State, as decided by the Synod of the Methodist and Waldensian churches.
In 2014 (Income taxes of 2011) the Methodist and Waldensian churches were recognized approximately 41 million euro (2.8 more than the previous year) determined by a total amount of more than 600,000 signatures, equal to thirty times the numerical strength of their faith community (www.ottopermillevaldese.org).
The Christian Evangelical Baptist Union in Italy (UCEBI) also opened its campaign. UCEBI launched on the web three videos dedicated to migrants, young people, civil rights recalling Martin Luther King’s dream to overcome racism and poverty in every corner of the planet. For pastor Raffaele Volpe, president of UCEBI, the eight per thousand funds are not a matter of social assistance but of promoting dignity and rights and of providing opportunities for those who cannot choose. Other instruments of the Baptists’ campaign in addition to a dedicated website (www.ottopermillebattista.org), a Facebook Page, the hashtag #lottopermillediritti, a leaflet and the videos published on you tube.
The Italian Union of the 7th Day Adventist Churches (UICCA) chooses the motto “The Adventist’s 8xthousand is to welcome and serve” to highlight the many social projects financed by the eight per thousand funds. Three the main projects, explained Franco Evangelista, in charge of the Adventist Social Works (OSA): ‘To say no to criminality‘; ‘To support research’ especially on cancer; ‘To fight against the Ebola virus in Liberia’. For the new campaign some videos have been published available on the website: www.ottopermilleavventisti.it
All the above mentioned churches do not assign any money for churches expenses (pastors’ wages, churches building or restoration, evangelization).
** The second National Day of Legality was celebrated on Sunday March 22 by the Italian Methodist and Waldensian Churches to reflect over the theme of corruption. Initially established by the Southern Italy communities, the 2014 Waldensian and Methodist Synod decided to make it a National Day since ‘Christian faith must be able to denounce the abuse of power and injustice”. The verse chosen for this year was Isaiah 1:4 “Woe to the sinful nation!” Several the initiatives throughout Italy in which was clearly stated that the slow growth level of the Country is due to the negative economical impact of corruption and it is necessary to undergo a cultural battle to oppose it. The initiatives were carried out with the participation of judges and civil society associations.
** The Municipality of Rome will name a boulevard after painter Antonio Paschetto (1885-1963) in answer to the request of the Christian Evangelical Baptist Union in Italy (UCEBI) to remember the evangelical artist. Paschetto is the author, among other things, of the emblem of the Italian Republic. The boulevard will be within the Villa Torlonia where, in one of its buildings, are kept some of the painter’s works.
** The first edition of LINFA (Intercultural training workshop for Migrants and Refugees Reception) was concluded in Rome from March 27 to 29 last. The two years course is promoted by the program ‘To be Church Together’ of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI) with the aim to support those communities willing to welcome and integrate the increasing number of migrants and refugees. About 60 people (half foreigners and half Italians) participated to the course, coming from different churches: Waldensians, Methodists, Baptists, Adventists and Pentecostals. The program was realized in cooperation, among others, with the Christian Evangelical Baptist Union in Italy (UCEBI), the Italian Union of the 7th Day Adventist Churches (UICCA), the Pentecostal faculty of Religious Sciences and the Waldensian theological faculty.
** Also this year the Ghanaian Easter Convention was held on Sunday March 29 in Verona, at the historical Palazzo della Guardia (XVII-XIX century), with the title ‘Our Easter Gifts’. The convention was sponsored by the municipality of Verona. Among the participants, pastor Eugenio Bernardini, moderator of the Waldensian Board, and Alessandra Trotta, president of the Methodist Churches’ work organization (OPCEMI).
The event was animated by groups coming from all the Ghanaian communities of the Country and by representatives of the programme ‘To be Church together’ of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI). In the 25% of the Waldensian and Methodist churches migrants represent today more than the 50% of the members.
** The theologian Renzo Bertalot died at the age of 85, last March 20 in Brescia. He was born in Ivrea in 1929, studied at the Waldensian Theological Faculty of Rome and obtained doctorates and specializations in Canada. After being ordained pastor in 1954, he served in the Italian Presbyterian Church of Montreal (Canada) and in different Waldensian Communities in Italy. During his publishing activity he edited the Italian version of ‘The Systematic Theology’ of Paul Tillich for the publishing house ‘La Claudiana’ (1996-2006), for which he also published “Paul Tillich: existence and culture” (1991). But the research and the work of Renzo Bertalot are mainly linked to the work of study, translation and spreading of the Bible: he was president of the Italian Biblical Society (SBI) from 1967 to 1988 and was the promoter of the Interfaith translation of the Bible in the current language (TILC). In 1985 he was named professor of theory and practice of the biblical translation at the Waldensian theological faculty.