News bulletin of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy–Dec. 2015

News bulletin of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy–Dec. 2015

Federation Assembly–Baptist pastor Luca Maria Negro elected as new president

Rome (NEV), December 9, 2015 – The XVIII Assembly of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI), held in Pomezia (RM), according to the new statute approved on December 6 and come into force on December 8, elected the Baptist pastor Luca Maria Negro as new president. He succeeds to pastor Massimo Aquilante, at the end of his second and last mandate.

Luca Maria Negro was born in Turin 62 years ago and is the director of the weekly magazine Riforma. He has been pastor in Albano Laziale (Rome), Geneva (Switzerland) and Turin. He started his journalistic career at the then fortnightly ecumenical magazine “Com Nuovi Tempi” to become afterwards director of the monthly magazine “Confronti”. From 1992 to 2001 he was the director of FCEI’s Press Agency ‘NEV – Evangelical News’. From 1995 to 2001 he was FCEI Executive Secretary. Luca Maria Negro was, for nine years, in Geneva (Switzerland) at the Conference of European Churches (CEC), were he served as secretary for communication.

“Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard” (Malachi 3:16); this is the motto chosen for the XVII FCEI Assembly which opened last December 4 in Pomezia (Rome). More than 100 delegates of Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist and Waldensian Churches, of the Salvation Army and of some free Churches, came from all over Italy to participate in the event. On December 8 at 10 a.m., thanks to the approval of the new statute, the XVII Assembly was closed to be reconstituted immediately after in the first session of the XVIII Assembly which – composed of 25 members – elected the new president and the other executive positions.

Many the acts approved by the Assembly regarding all areas of commitment of the Federation: ecumenical and interfaith dialogue; reception of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers; religious freedom and laity of the State; safeguard of creation; dignity of labor; fight against violence on women; 500th Anniversary of the Reformation on 2017. Furthermore the Assembly voted for the introduction of a Social Report which will allow FCEI to communicate regularly the results of its whole activity beyond the financial and accounting aspects.

The Assembly also approved a comprehensive document on the experience of the ‘Mediterranean Hope’ project, started more than a year ago. A strong condemnation of violence done in the name of religion all over the world, was expressed with a separate motion which also condemns “the identification of foreigners and migrants as potential terrorists” and affirms “strong opposition to the use of Christian symbols to strengthen the Italian identity against others”.

The opening service was held by Methodist pastor George Ennin on Saturday morning, December 5, at the Hotel Selene of Pomezia (Rome). The Assembly was chaired by Sergio Velluto, member of the Waldensian Church of Turin.

The visit of Pope Francis at the Lutheran Church of Rome

Rome (NEV), November 30, 2015 – On Sunday November 15, Pope Francis payed a visit to the Lutheran Church of Via Sicilia in Rome, and thereby attended the Sunday worship afternoon. The biblical passage chosen for the ecumenical celebration, foreseen by the Lutheran liturgical calendar, was the final judgement (Matthew 25, 31-46). Pastor Jens-Martin Kruse said: “The text fits perfectly the times we live: ‘whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me’”.

Besides the local community and the two priests of the neighbouring Catholic parishes of San Camillo and San Patrizio, were present the Dean and the vice-Dean of the Italian Lutheran Evangelical Church in Italy (CELI) and the president of the Lutheran Synod. The church was crowded for the occasion.

In his homily Pope Francis underlined the need to ask forgiveness to each other for the bad times between the two faith communities, the persecutions and the divisions in spite of the common baptism. During the visit, which took place in a climate of fraternity and sharing, church members were given the opportunity to dialogue with the pope. Among the different questions, one was related to the impossibility for mixed couples (Catholic-Protestant) to fully share the Holy Communion. The Pope – putting the emphasis on the one baptism that unites Christians – showing a new openness on this front – said: “It is a problem to which everyone must answer on one’s own… To share the Lord’s Supper is the goal of a path or is rather the viaticum to help us walk together? If we have the same baptism we are to walk together…I put the questions to theologians, to those who understand, as for me I’ll never give the permission to do so because it is not of my responsibility: speak with the Lord and go ahead… I dare not say more”.

The last time a pope went to the “Christuskirche” of Via Sicilia was on March 14, 2010 when Benedict XVI took part to a Lutheran service. Pope John Paul II was the first pontiff to go there in 1983 on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of Luther’s birth. But the visit of Bergoglio marked a new opening in the ecumenical dialogue.

Paris. Strong condemnation of the Islamic communities and Christian churches in Italy

Rome (NEV), November 30, 2015 – “In prayer we direct our thoughts to you, to the victims and their loved ones, turning today with renewed firmness of faith in the Lord of peace – wrote Pastor Massimo Aquilante, president of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI) to Pastor François Clavairoly, president of the Protestant Federation of France -. We reiterate our firm commitment to dialogue among peoples, religions and cultures, against extremism, fundamentalism, intolerance and exploitation of God’s name to justify any kind of violence”. After the terrible night of 13 November, when 129 people were killed in the violent terroristic attacks in Paris, many were the Italian churches who responded with messages of support addressed to the French sister churches. Pastor Eugenio Bernardini, moderator of the Waldensian Board, wrote to Pastor Laurent Schlumberger, President of the National Council of the United Protestant Church of France: “We pray the Lord of peace and reconciliation to give courage and hope to you and us and to all men and women of good will, to continue to walk in the path of non-violent solution of conflicts, of respectful coexistence of diversity and democracy “.

Pastor Raffaele Volpe, president of the Christian Evangelical Baptist Union in Italy (UCEBI), said: “The attack in Paris brings into question again what we have always believed and testified, and that is that we must defend with all the possible strength the uniqueness of each person. A terrorist act is based on the principle that the other is not a person with own dreams, freedom, conscience, but a symbol. A cold symbol, rather than a unique and unrepeatable face”.

Pastor Stefano Paris, president of the Italian Union of the 7th Day Adventist Christian Churches (UICCA), said: “We express our condolences and solidarity to the families of the victims, the wounded and the French people”. He then asked the Italian Adventist Christian churches to devote a minute of silence, Saturday, November 21, at 11 am, to all those who were affected by this latest tragedy. Also the Federation of Protestant women in Italy (FDEI) in a statement condemned the massacre of Paris and the use of God’s name to commit such heinous crimes: “Nothing of what happened can be justified with the Islamic religion, but only with the murderous fanaticism of terrorists”.

“We condemn all forms of terror and violence in the name of God; we summon all our communities to oppose with all their strength any message of hatred and violence not compatible with Islam, with Christianity and with all other religions and their messages of peace”. These are the words of the appeal signed by the exponents of Muslim and Christian movements and communities, on Saturday November 14 – the day after the terrorist’s attacks in Paris – during the meeting organized by the magazine Confronti “From migrant Muslims to Italian citizens: the challenge of integration and dialogue (Rome 13-14 November). “We, representatives of various Islamic and Christian organizations – continues the appeal – express our mourning and our confusion together with our solidarity to the French people, with all its religious and cultural components, and to all peoples victims of terrorism. We renew our full willingness to cooperate with every initiative aimed at interfaith dialogue and to contrast any abuse of religion for political and power goals that have nothing to do with a sincere faith”.

Among the first signatories the representatives of some of the largest Islamic Italian organizations: Abdellah Redouane (Grand Mosque of Rome), Izzeddin Elzir (Union of Islamic Organizations in Italy – UCOII), Yahya Pallavicini (Islamic Religious Community -COREIS); and on the Christian side don Cristiano Bettega (Office for Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue of the Italian Bishop’s Conference), Luca Anziani (Waldensian Church), Roberto Catalano (Focolari Movement), Paolo Naso (Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy – FCEI), Gian Mario Gillio (NEV Press Agency -FCEI); and other organizations, Giovanni Sarubbi (Il Dialogo) and Marisa Iannucci (Life Onlus).

Antisemitism. The Waldensian Board and the Churches of Milan speaking out

Rome (NEV), November 30, 2015 – The moderator of the Waldensian Board, pastor Eugenio Bernardini wrote a letter to Renzo Gattegna, president of the Union of Jewish Community in Italy (UCEI), in which he expressed his dismay at the cowardly attack that, on November 12 in Milan, had as victim the Israeli Nathan Graff. Bernardini in his letter pointed out that the act must not be minimized but considered as a call to the civil society to be on the alert against the poison of Antisemitism and intolerance that periodically hits Italy and Europe. Bernardini affirmed also that a threat to Jewish people is a threat to the security of all citizens just as the terroristic attack of Paris. The letter concluded with the best wishes for a speedy recovery to Mr. Nathan Graff.

Also the Waldensian, Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, Anglican and Adventist churches of Milan, the day after the aggression, spread a note to express their solidarity to the presidents of the Jewish community of Milan and to the Chief Rabbi Alfonso Arbib. In the note there is a clear position against ‘the knives justice’ which tends to increase in the Middle East as well as in Europe and an invitation to defend the values of freedom of religion or belief. In response, on November 18, Milo Hasbani and Raffaele Besso – presidents of the Jewish Community of Milan – wrote a letter expressing their sincere appreciation for the words of solidarity which encourage them in the aim to combat such events and not allow terrorism to change societies in prisons.

Migrants. The call to welcome migrants by Venetian Christian communities

Rome (NEV), November 30, 2015 – On Monday 23 of November on the Paglia-Bridge in Venice, the Patriarch of Venice, bishop Francesco Moraglia, the archimandrite Evangelos Yfantidis of the Holy Orthodox Archdiocese of Italy and Malta, the Waldensian, Lutheran and Adventist pastors Caterina Griffante, Bernd Prigge and Davide Mozzato, together with the representatives of four other churches – Russian Orthodox, Anglican, Romanian Orthodox, Coptic Apostolic – gathered to read in turn in their original languages, in the background of the Bridge of Sighs, the joint appeal “We are brothers”. Brothers as Christians of different confessions and, most of all, brothers of those forced to leave their homelands because of war and poverty. It is a call to welcome migrants, refugees, asylum seekers – thought before the facts of Paris it has now become even more urgent for the negative repercussions the attacks may have on the lot of those who try to reach Europe.

Also pastor Massimo Aquilante, president of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI), on occasion of the umpteenth tragedies recently occurred in Greece, Morocco and Libya, and in which many children lost their life, re-launched an appeal for the urgent opening of ‘humanitarian corridors’ which would allow vulnerable refugees to safely reach Europe where they could be welcomed and assisted. In this regard – Aquilante remembered – FCEI, together with the Comunità di S. Egidio is ready to work, within its project Mediterranean Hope, with the Italian authorities in order to start this humanitarian experiment which hopefully will be adopted also by other European Countries.

For the moment the project will start in Lebanon and Morocco. The legal basis of the initiative is based on Article 25 of the EC Regulation 810/2009 of July 13, 2009, which establishes a Community Code on Visas, namely the possibility of granting visas by the Schengen Borders Code “for humanitarian reasons or national interest or because of international obligations”.

The FCEI project Mediterranean Hope is supported by the 8‰ funds of the Wandensian and Methodist churches.

Climate Justice. Message of the Lutheran Church in Italy to the Prime Minister and others

Rome (NEV), November 30, 2015 – The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Italy (CELI), following the solicitation of the general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Martin Junge, for a global mobilization in support of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21), sent a letter to the President of the Italian Republic Sergio Mattarella; to the Prime Minister Matteo Renzi; to the Minister of Economy and Finance Pier Carlo Padoan and to the Minister of Environment Gian Luca Galletti. In the letter CELI stressed the absolute urgency that the Italian government undertakes a maximum ambitious fight against climate change both within Italy and the ongoing negotiations of the United Nations. Among the five key points that CELI emphasized in the letter: “A framework agreement for the period following 2020; a special attention to the adaptive capacity and resilience to ensure that the parties continue to prioritize action to adapt, with special concern for the poor and vulnerable populations; the assurance of a higher level of funding the fight against climate change.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Italy is a member of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), a worldwide fellowship of 145 churches with more than 72 million Christians in 98 countries.

Labour. The Labour Caravan reached Brescia to discuss about of business’

Rome (NEV), November 18, 2015 – “The Caravan for the sustainability and the dignity of labour” with a new step in Brescia (Lombardy), is drawing to an end. The project, promoted by the Commission for Globalization and Environment (GLAM) of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI), started last February from Scicli and Niscemi in Sicily and went up the Peninsula passing through Taranto, Mottola, Naples, Civitavecchia, Milan, Turin, Parma, Sardinia (Sulcis), before reaching Brescia on the 20th of November and will conclude its itinerary in Pomezia (Latium) at the FCEI General Assembly (December 4-8, 2015) after a stop also in Florence.

The theme in Brescia was “The business ethics starting from the Volkswagen case”. Among the participants to the panel: Enzo Torri, general secretary of CISL (one of the three main Italian Trade Unions); Fabrizio Molteni, secretary of ACLI (Catholic Italian Workers) and Antonella Visentin, GLAM coordinator. The Waldensian Pastor Anne Zell and the Catholic priest Don Mario Benedini introduced the meeting.

In Brief

** “TO SAY NO IS POSSIBLE” is the title of the booklet “16 days to overcome violence” realized also this year by the Federation of Protestant Women in Italy (FDEI) to accompany through reflection and prayer the period from November 25 to December 10 (International Human Rights Day). Dora Bognandi, FDEI president, introducing the booklet, underlined the ‘cut’ chosen for this year’s campaign: to encourage women to face the problem without fear seeking the help not only of other women but also of men. To work so that women don’t feel alone in their need to react to violence. The booklet, edited by Gianna Urizio, is not meant only for women or women’s group or Protestant churches, but for all communities and local churches, including the Catholic grass-roots communities, whishing to face the issue.

** On October 31 in Palermo, Sister Anna Alonzo, social missionary, national leader of the International Reconciliation Movement (MIR) and founder of the ‘Rainbow Center’ in the popular area of La Guadagna, was attacked in front of her house. Solidarity was expressed in an ecumenical appeal signed by ‘presbyters, pastors, lay and religious people, Catholic and Protestant believers’ of the city of Palermo. Waldensian Pastor Peter Ciaccio explained that this was not the first attack: last April unknown people destroyed the social centre were sister Anna works to combat mafia and in particular women trafficking.

** On the night of November 15, the library La Claudiana of Florence was burgled by unknown persons. The total damage – in addition to the cash stolen – has not yet been assessed (the repair of the main door, the increasing of security levels of the library, etc.). “It is a wound in the soul” said Pasquale Iacobino, head of the library, noting that this was the third theft in three years and that this one happened in the most delicate period of the year, the Christmas market. The Claudiana Library of Florence, located in Borgo Ognissanti, 14R, has been active for 15 years and promotes various cultural activities. A subscription was open to cope with the extraordinary necessary actions due to the accident.