"Today we enjoy religious freedom and I want to thank the Italian government for this" said Ted N.C. Wilson, president of the Adventist World Church. He was a guest in Rome on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the Italian Union of Adventist Christian churches (UICCA).
"Thank God every day for the religious freedom you enjoy in this great country of Italy," he added. "Never take this achievement for granted. Religious freedom requires constant vigilance." Wilson, accompanied by his wife Nancy, brought greetings from the World Church. "Do not be discouraged," he exhorted, "God has a plan for each of you." The Italian Adventist community answered with a biblical text: "Those of Italy salute you" (Hebrews 13:24).
On June 8 and 9, over 750 people filled the church in Piazza Vulture, Rome, to participate in the historical event celebrating God and the faith of those who fought over the years to see freedom of conscience recognized in our country. In his address, Stefano Paris, president of the UICCA, gave a warm welcome to the participants and to those listening and watching from all over Italy through the media. "We are here to celebrate and remember," said Paris at the opening of the event. "Remembering is important to understand who we are and where we must go."
"In addition to those in the hall, there were 300 video links on Hope Channel Italia, Facebook, YouTube and the App, as well as direct audio on Adventist radio, both FM and streaming. In addition, 30 churches followed the meeting, projecting live," explained Vincenzo Annunziata, national director of the Communications Department, who coordinated the entire Adventist media center (web, TV, news, radio, and social media), to make the event accessible to as many users as possible.
During the preaching Friday evening, Mario Brito, president of the Adventist Church in Europe (EUD), translated by Andreas Mazza, EUD news editor, also encouraged believers. "We have a precious message that offers hope, that must be lived and brought to others," he said, "a message capable of changing the lives of those who accept it, of those who may have taken the wrong path. It is up to us to announce it, in a world that is in an increasingly alarming situation, in which scientists and men of culture are seen as prophets who often overshadow the same theologians that are called to reveal God's intentions for men in this century.”
The Church says thank you with a plaque ceremony
It was a rich program on June 9th. The Sabbath service included a moving ceremony. Paris and Giuseppe Cupertino, general secretary of the UICCA, honored two people for their commitment to the service with a plaque of thanks: Wilson, and retired pastor Gianfranco Rossi, 94, former head of the Department of Public Affairs and Religious Freedom at the Italian Union and EUD. It was presented to Rossi "as a sign of gratitude and appreciation due to his highly qualified and tenacious commitment in promoting requests for religious freedom for Italian Adventists at the institutional and religious premises of the country."
"Rossi is an icon of the church," said Paris, "who dedicated so many years of his life on freedom of conscience in Italy. He helped students and workers to have Saturday free. Forty years ago it was more complicated, even if difficulties still remain today."
Behind a great man there is always a great woman, says a famous saying. On behalf of the Church in Italy, Paris honored the often silent work of Carmela Giorgini, bride and lifetime companion of Rossi. She was also given a plaque of appreciation "for the dedication and tenacity with which she served the Italian Adventist work alongside her husband, being aware of the many difficulties she would face and overcame in the care of the family and being an example of faith for the whole community."
In a historic moment, Wilson received a copy of the Torre Pellice church register consigned to the World Church. It shows the name of the first Adventist in Italy and in Europe: Catherine Revel. Revel became an Adventist in 1864; she was the only Seventh-day Adventist in her community for about 20 years. Revel was the grandmother of Alfred Vaucher, one of the most prominent European theologians.