Table Of Contents
- About the author
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- Table of Contents
- I. Federalism: A Revolutionin the Political Thought
- 1. What type of federalism?
- 2. Pacifism and europeanism versus federalism
- First Part
- I. The Origins of the Political Idea behind Protestant Federalism
- 1. The Protestant “Revolution”
- 2. From “federal theology” to political federalism
- 3. Some aspects of Reformed ecclesiastical constitutionalism
- 4. The Protestants and the idea of Europe
- II. Pre-federal Aspects in Waldensian Culture and History
- 1. Territorial and confessional identity of a “popolo-chiesa”
- 2. The use of the “covenant” in the history of the Waldensian Church
- 3. Protofederal aspects in the Waldensian ecclesiology
- Second Part
- I. The Question of “Peace” within Italian Protestantism
- 1. Europeanism, pacifism and irenism in the Waldensian Church and society between the 19th and 20th centuries
- 2. From the ideals of the Risorgimento to the perspective of a European Unity
- 3. The Peace Association of Torre Pellice and its action to establish a “Federation of Civil States”
- II. The Question of “Christian Unity” within Italian Protestantism
- 1. From the World Alliance to the Ecumenical Movement
- 2. Some remarks on nationalism in the “Barthian youth”: towards the ecumenism, in search of federalism
- Third Part
- I. Federalism and Ecumenism in International Reformed Protestantism
- 1. Christian ecumenism and European federalism: “United through Diversity”
- 2. The World Council of Churches and the idea of a federal Europe
- 3. The federalist perspective in the young Barthians: the “Giornate teologiche” of 1945
- II. Federalism within Anti-Fascismand Waldensian Resistance
- 1. The Waldensian world faced with Fascism: a “silent resistance”
- 2. From spiritual to armed resistance: in favour of a federal Europe
- III. The Waldensian Contribution to European Federalism: A Cultural and Political Battle
- 1. The United States of Europe: towards the idea of a supranational federation
- 2. The Declaration of Chivasso: towards the idea of an infranational federalism
Filippo Maria GIORDANO
United through Diversity
An Insight into Federalism and Ecumenism within Italian Protestantism
This book was made possible by the Centre for Studies on Federalism of Turin (http://www.csfederalismo.it).
With the support of the European Commission.
The book was subject to a double blind refereeing process.
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© P.I.E. Peter Lang s.a.
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Names: Giordano, Filippo Maria, 1973- author. Title: United through diversity: an insight into Federalism and Ecumenism within Italian Protestantism / Filippo Maria Giordano; preface by Paolo Ricca. Description: New York: Peter Lang, 2016. | Series: Federalism; ISSN 2294-6969, No. 6 | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2016029319 | ISBN 9782875743732. Subjects: LCSH: Christianity and politics--Italy. Christianity and politics--Reformed Church. | Church and state--Italy. | Federal government--Italy. | Christian union--Italy. Classification: LCC BR115.P7 G535 2016 | DDC 280/.40945--dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2016029319
Bibliographic information published by “Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek”.
“Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek” lists this publication in the “Deutsche Nationalbibliografie”; detailed bibliographic data is available in the Internet at http://dnb.d-nb.de.
About the author
Filippo Maria Giordano holds a Jean Monnet Module at the University of Turin, within the Department of Culture, Politics and Society, where he is involved in the studies of the religious factor and phenomenon in the history of European unification and in the regional integration processes. He was research fellow at Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna of Pisa and since 2007 he has been a researcher at the Centre for Studies on Federalism. He is the author of several publications on Protestants and Europeanism and on federalist political thought.
About the book
The book analyses the Europeanist and federalist effort of Italian Protestants in the struggle for European unification. This investigation revolves around two distinct guiding arguments: a political one, focused on the analysis of political thought; and a historical one reconstructing the most recent events about the Italian Protestants’ activism for the political unification of Europe. The essay retraces the developments of federalism within the Protestant world from the 16th to the 20th century by referring to the bond between federalism and ecumenism. The volume is divided into three parts and provides a historical overview of federal thought within the Protestant world from the Reformation to the Enlightenment. It also addresses a series of projects aimed at the political unification of the European continent, and analyses the similarities between ecclesiastical constitutionalism and institutional federalism. This theoretical background paves the way for the contribution of Italian Protestants to the international peace movement and the confessional reconciliation among the Churches in the 19th and 20th centuries. Finally, this essay highlights the practical and theoretical contribution of the Italian Protestants to the cause of “United States of Europe”, according to the principles of the Ventotene Manifesto.
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Table of Contents
The substance of this book is made up of three focal points, resulting in its originality and merit. The first explores and documents the link between Calvinism and Federalism, between Reformed ecclesiology (distinct from the Lutheran) and federal democracy. The second traces and brings to light this link in the centuries-old history of the Waldensian Church – a small Calvinist enclave within Roman Catholic Italy. The third shows the close interconnection in the first half of last century (but with consequences that extend to the present day) between the ecumenical intentions of the churches (at the time, only the main Protestant, Anglican and some Orthodox Churches outside the Soviet area) to embark on their reconciliation after centuries of divisions and controversies, and the political project to unite the countries of Europe, finally overcoming the various and often ominous nationalist currents and, with them, the anarchy caused by the sovereignty of nation states1. These three focal points deserve to be further briefly explored.
1. That there is a close connection between Protestantism, particularly Calvinism, and the progressive constitution of modern democracies is an established and long acknowledged fact. While Lutheranism maintained the Episcopal system in various national churches or ended up succumbing in others to the “supreme episcopacy” of the prince or whoever held the political authority considered a “prominent member of the church”, thus giving rise to an ecclesiastical organisation governed more from above than below, Calvinism – with its church councillors elected by the community and its synods that variously expressed the local churches – created a system in which power was not managed personally but collectively, and the power of the assemblies did not come from above but from below. It is clear that an ecclesiastical organisation of this sort was sure to result in, or at least encourage and strengthen, democratic forms of governing from below. This certainly happened in countries in which the Reformed churches left their mark, such as in the United States, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Scotland and elsewhere. However, that said, it is important not to forget Troeltsch’s observations that, in their genesis, the advocacy of human rights does not necessarily coincide with a democratic structure of a←13 | 14→ society, “and is therefore not to be explained by the historical derivation of one from the other […]. The two ideas have to be kept separate, and only coalesce where the democratic shaping of the ideas of the State is held to be itself an inalienable human right […]”2. And thus for instance, Troeltsch continues “the Calvinist Puritan States of North America were, it is true, democratic, but, so far from recognizing liberty of conscience, they explicitly rejected it as implying a godless scepticism”3. At that time, freedom of conscience was only to be found – as a right recognized by the State – in Rhode Island organized by the Baptist Roger Williams and in Pennsylvania organised by the Quaker William Penn. But this proves the case: while Baptism and Quakerism belong to the Calvinist-based Protestantism, they, together with other groups and movements, form what is known as “sectarian Protestantism”, very distinct from the Protestantism that Troeltsch defines as “ecclesiastical” – that of the great “established churches” and recognised by the nation’s law. Therefore – continued Troeltsch – the merit of having given rise to the great principles that became the common heritage of modern Western democracies (human rights, separation of church and state and the state’s religious neutrality, freedom of conscience, religion and thought, practising tolerance, etc.) “was therefore not actual Church Protestantism” but what Troeltsch called “the step-children of the Reformation”4, i.e. the spiritual children of the “radical Reformation”, also known as the “left wing of the Reformation” constituted in the 16th century by Anabaptism and Spiritualism. Their heirs were, in the 17th century, Baptism, the Society of Friends (better known as the Quaker Community) and other church formations that together formed the great Puritan movement, fundamental for establishing modern parliamentary democracy.
However, there is another way in which Protestantism – especially the “sectarian” kind – has fostered the birth and growth of a democratic conscience and practice: by introducing in fairly large sections of Protestant Christianity a new principle of formation of the church. While people belonged to the church right from birth and involuntarily through the baptism of infants in the “established churches”, that were not infrequently also the “State churches”, church membership in sectarian Protestantism is the free choice of an adult person who can decide to dissociate from the “people’s church” where they were baptised as young children and become part of a new Christian community, dissenting from the church of the majority, thus forming a “sect” i.e. a “free church” separated from the “established church” of the majority. In the established kind of church, it←14 | 15→ is the church that precedes the individual believer, while in the free church the believer precedes the church and builds it together with others who think and believe in the same way. In sectarian Protestantism, believers are not children of the church; it is the church that is the child of the believers. The church is constituted by an independent decision of the believers who, together, bring it into existence. In keeping with this new constitutive principle of the church, in sectarian Protestantism children were not generally baptized and it was only practised on adult believers who requested it following their conversion. As can be seen, it is no longer a case of simply governing the church from below but of constituting it from below.
A final aspect worth mentioning is that it was within sectarian Protestantism that “congregationalism” began in the 17th century, the notion that each local Christian community (congregation), formed in the way just described on a voluntary basis out of the free choice of its member believers, is independent of any central authority and not under its control (whether it is a bishop as in the Anglican and, partly, the Lutheran systems, or a synod as in the Calvinist system), and is perfectly able to govern itself, illuminated by the Sacred Scripture and guided by the Holy Spirit. Independence does not mean isolation: the congregation is connected with others, whether similar or different, but does not depend on any authority of any kind outside itself, apart from that of God. It is obvious that this principle of self-government could lead to the exercising of a basic democracy.
2. The second link which, together with the other two, forms the backbone of this book, is the one between Protestant faith and federal democracy in the modern history of the Waldensian Church, after its accession, in the synod held (perhaps in the open) at Chanforan in the upper Angrogna valley in the province of Turin, “en presencia de tuti li ministri et eciandio del populo”5, from September 12 to 18, 1532. This meeting, which involved the whole Waldensian congregation in its decisions, marked a clean break and a profound turning point in Waldensian history, a sort of death and resurrection that the Waldensians consciously faced, supported and guided by the same biblical word that had called them into existence 350 years before and that had miraculously helped them survive throughout their great Diaspora of the Middle Ages, despite the violent repression they were subject to as “heretics”. The Sola Scriptura inspiring the Protestant Reformation was, de facto, practised by the Waldensians in all their medieval history: this was the bridge that allowed them to pass into the world of the Reformation without denying themselves and their past, while accepting an almost total theological and ethical transformation of their movement which became a church, a proper institution that was small but soundly structured, leaving behind the semi-clandestine situa←15 | 16→tion in which the Waldensians had always lived. The central point of the Sola Scriptura of medieval Waldensians was the Sermon on the Mount of Jesus Christ (Matthew 5-7) and in the practising of the “apostolic life”; the central point of the Sola Scriptura of the 16th century Reformers was the Letter to the Romans of the apostle Paul and the message of “justification by grace through faith”. By accepting the Reformation, the Waldensians abandoned (largely although not entirely) their interpretation of the Sola Scriptura, adopting its interpretation by the Reformation. The Chanforan synod was therefore effectively a kind of “constituent assembly”6 of the reformed Waldensian faith. Although it would not be hard to already see in the medieval Waldensians – right from the Bergamo Conference of 1218 – significant traces of a “proto federal” model of ecclesiastical organisation, it is above all in the reformed Waldensian faith that the foedus (= pact, alliance, union, association, bond) became the theological pivot and the guiding principle of the new Waldensian ecclesiology.
There is plenty of evidence in this respect, particularly two aspects. The first consists of the Articles faits et arrêtés (= Articles written and established) of the 1558 synod, which joined the Waldensians both sides of the Alps in a single community of faith despite living in different countries. It was the first example in Europe of a church order of Presbyterian-synodal character7. The second evidence, connected to the previous one, is the Pact of Union of early January 1561, which comes to us in three distinct versions: in one of these, the union is described as a “confederation”. The text of the Pact goes back to a meeting held on French soil of a delegation coming from the community of the Piedmont Valleys which, together with the delegation from the Waldensian communities of the Dauphiné – wrote the pastor and historian Scipione Lentulo, a contemporary of these events – “furono al fine di parere che il popolo valdese et di qua et di là dei monti farebbero tra loro perpetua et inviolabile confederatione, promettendo tutti di mantenere, con la gratia di Dio, la pura predicatione dell’Evangelio et l’amministratione de i Santi Sacramenti, di aiutarsi e soccorrersi scambievolmente gli uni gli altri, e di rendere ubidienza a i Superiori loro, come la parola di Dio comanda”8.←16 | 17→
It is not now possible to know the exact meaning of the word “confederation”, only used by Lentulo; the other two versions of the Pact speak respectively of “alliance” and “union”. It could be that Lentulo understood “confederation” as a synonym of “alliance” and “union”: different words saying the same thing. But it could also be that, by “confederation”, Lentulo wanted to suggest the idea of a particular type of union or alliance – a union of federal or proto-federal type i.e. a union not imposed by circumstances or external forces but freely chosen by independent and equal church subjects that, while establishing a pact or entering an alliance with other subjects, do not forgo their independence, deciding instead to no longer exercise it alone but in company and in constant dialogue with other subjects, taking responsibility towards them to protect the unity of the faith and to provide mutual help whenever necessary. What it is still important to emphasize is that this Pact of Union states that the bond of faith uniting the Waldensian churches spread in different countries, and thus subject to different political powers and, above all, belonging to different nations, is stronger than the various national affiliations and the loyalties due to their respective sovereigns. Nationalities can divide and even oppose peoples, but not Christians whose faith overrides “mountains” of any kind since it is universal in nature and thus transnational: it embraces the entire ecumene. And further, the union of the churches of the pact is defined “perpetual and inviolable”: while nationalities are temporary and changing, the communion of faith is final and permanent.
However, the Pact of 1561 also had another very important significance. In 1555, the Peace of Augsburg had entirely adopted and, in a way, canonized the principle of cuius regio eius religio which denied, within a given territory, the freedom of conscience of subjects in matters of religion: subjects were required to adopt the religious confession of the prince. As a result of this principle, the Waldensians would have to renounce their faith and take up the one of their Catholic sovereign Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy. The delegations of Waldensian communities from either side of the Alps met on January 21, 1561, in the village of Puy in Bobbio Pellice, and took three decisions of primary importance: (1), confirm and ratify the Pact established earlier that month; (2) refuse the demand from the Savoy court to renounce their faith, maintaining the “la pura predicatione dell’Evangelio et l’amministratione de i Santi Sacramenti”9, and abandoning “the false religion of the Pope”; (3) defend the Reformed faith using all means necessary (“vogliamo vivere et morire nella parola←17 | 18→ di Dio”)10. This defence of the faith also allowed the use of arms – a very controversial decision challenged by a large part of the community but, in the end, adopted when it became clear that the alternative to using arms was to recant their faith: in the choice between renouncing their beliefs or taking up arms to defend their freedom of conscience, the Waldensians chose the latter. The decision to “defend Religion with arms”11 was taken on February 2 of that year, at Combe del Villar, by a synod convened there. It has been rightly noted that this armed resistance to constituted authority for reasons of religion “cannot be interpreted as a political revolt or rebellion”12: the Waldensians were loyal, obedient, respectful and faithful subjects. Theirs was a spiritual revolt which also became an armed resistance, in defence of freedom of conscience to make their own choices of faith. In practice the Waldensians were resisting, also by taking up arms, the application in Piedmont of the hostile principle of cuius regio eius religio by which they would be forced to renounce their reformed faith. It was in those years that the first religious war in Europe between the Waldensians and the Savoy troops took place. The war ended with the Treaty of Cavour in June 1561 which was the first open disobedience to the cuius regio eius religio principle in Europe, authorising the Waldensian minority to practise their reformed faith in a circumscribed area of a territory in which the religion of the prince was Roman Catholic. But it did not last long. The times of confessional pluralism within the same territory were still far into the future. However, the fact that a small Waldensian “confederation” had anticipated such a time through the Peace of Cavour, even if at a high price and only for a few years, challenging and disobeying the cuius regio eius religio principle, is all the more worthy of being noted and appreciated. The Cavour treaty “was the first treaty to establish in Europe a degree of religious tolerance and therefore also some freedom for the people”13, whatever the religion of the prince.
The Pact, chosen by the Waldensians as a way for establishing and developing the unity of their churches, accompanied their entire history through to the recent “Integration Pact” with the Methodist Church in Italy (1975), now part of the Waldensian Church. The central structure of the Pact is the synod, which is the open space where the independence of the local churches meets the common vocation that unites them. It is quite clear that the organised forms of collective life and the governing←18 | 19→ structures that the Waldensian “confederation” acquired over the centuries have much in common with the federalist project of political unity between European countries.
3. The relationship between ecumenism and federalism and the initiatives of a qualified group of Waldensians both in the Ecumenical Movement and in the project for a federal Europe are the theme of the third part of the book. Even though the information and considerations contained are very interesting, they are unfortunately little known or not known at all, or not sufficiently valued: three of them are worth singling out.
[a] The first concerns the relationship between the ecumenical proposal of Oscar Cullmann and the federative idea. Cullmann, a Lutheran from Alsace, one of the 20th century’s greatest scholars of the New Testament, friend of Paul VI who invited him to participate in the Second Vatican Council and, from that time, outstanding ecumenist, coined an original ecumenical formula that was later adopted by many: unity through diversity14. The originality of the formula obviously lies in the word through, which replaces the traditional in (“Unity in diversity”). What does this “through” imply? It implies that diversity is not just a component of unity but is its agent and motive. Christian unity does not just comprise diversity but is built with it. In the Christian community, diversity does not set in motion a process of progressive separation that results in division but, on the contrary, paves the way to unity and qualifies it as Christian unity. How is this possible? By which routes does Cullmann come to see diversity as a quality of unity? The route is that of the New Testament doctrine of charisms which, while differing, all come from the same single Spirit: “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them” (I. Corinthians 12:4). That of the charisms is a diversity unified by the Spirit which is its source, and it is only through the diversity of charisms that the unity of the Spirit is composed and manifests itself: in other words, Christian unity. According to Cullmann, every Christian denomination is characterised by certain charisms and which, once freed from any (always possible) deformations and returned to their original purity, can and must be recognised as true Christian charisms of the various denominations which, in turn, offer their own recognition. It is through the recognition of the charisms of each denomination that Christian unity can be achieved.
But what could be – Cullmann wondered – the structure unifying the various denominations and their charisms? Here is his proposal: “What I advocate, not as a preliminary state, but as an ultimate goal of all our←19 | 20→ strivings toward unity, is a union of all Christian churches within which each would preserve its valuable elements, including its structure. Lacking a better expression (“alliance”?), I have called this a “federation” (in contrast to merger), despite the fact that the word in its secular sense is not adequate”15. For this reason, but especially for the many criticisms about that term, Cullmann says that he gave up using it “despite not finding – he added – at the present time any term that can perfectly replace it”16. In admitting that he could not find a better term than his first suggestion of a ‘federation’ of churches to describe Christian unity, it does not mean that such a term does not exist but that it is hard to find. It also means that a Christian unity that is truly “through diversity”, i.e. that lets itself be qualified by diversity, cannot be without, to a greater or lesser extent, elements that pertain to a federalist view of unity. That said, it is certainly understandable that Cullmann ultimately gave up describing Christian unity as a “federation”, he himself considering the word “not adequate”. Why is it not? For the simple reason that “unity” is something more than what “federation” can express. To be convinced, it is sufficient to consider this: the Trinity (i.e. according to Christian doctrine, the relationships within the divinity between Father, Son and Holy Ghost), rightly considered the model of Christian unity, is a communion not a federation. However, what is the indubitable advantage of the term “federation”? It is in being better than any other word for suggesting that Christian unity is, constitutionally, a unity of diversities and in which diversities are neither disgraced nor tamed but valued.
[b] The second little known but highly interesting theme in the third part of the volume is the relationship between ecumenism and federalism and, more specifically, between the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the European federalist project. The relationship between ecumenism and federalism has been variously explored and highlighted by scholars, who reached the conclusion that there are fundamental points in common between political federalism of countries and religious associations between Churches, such as the desire for peace, the principles of subsidiarity, tolerance and solidarity, and the wish to establish friendly and constructive relationships with others different from us. Therefore, “federalism and ecumenism not only resemble each other as regards ideological assumptions and practical organizational systems, but they integrate themselves in their objectives”17. Along these same lines there are those who see in ecumenism “the spirit of federalism or, rather, one of the factors of consciousness at the basis of a federalist social behaviour”. There←20 | 21→ are some who have spoken of a “federalist spirituality” that is akin, in its fundamental inspiration, to the ecumenical spirituality18.
That being the case, it is no wonder that the World Council of Churches (WCC), which is the largest organisation so far expressed by the Ecumenical Movement in its over a hundred years of history and which continues to be its main operational tool, adopted at its creation – as has been said – “a loosely federal structure”19. In fact, the WCC did not want to be and never has been a sort of “super-church” demanding to impose its authority over that of member churches in the name of unity. This was established by the WCC Central Committee at its 1950 meeting in Toronto in these terms: “The WCC is not a super-church. It is not the world church. It is not the Una Sancta of which the Creeds speak […]. The WCC cannot and should not be based on any one particular conception of the Church […]. The Council as such cannot possibly become the instrument of one confession or school without losing its very raison d’être […]. Membership in the WCC does not imply that a church treats its own conception of the Church as merely relative […] and does not imply the acceptance of a specific doctrine concerning the nature of Church unity”20. These few quotes suffice to confirm that membership of the WCC certainly commits church members to dialogue, to service and common witness, but does not deprive them any of their independence. In this respect, the unity that churches experience in the WCC can actually be considered federal in nature: a certain degree of unity and collaboration is achieved while respecting the autonomy of the individual churches. In any case, the WCC defines itself as “a fellowship of churches that confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is God and Saviour
according to the Scriptures”21. Fellowship is a word that can be expressed in many ways: the dominating idea is that, in the WCC, the churches are “associated” together, i.e. united in the fundamental bond of common faith in Christ, but not yet in full communion with each other. Their relationship is effectively similar to that which can exist between federated nations. This analogy was already glimpsed some thirty years before the creation of the WCC (1948) by the metropolitan bishop Dorotheos of Bursa (in Turkey) who, in 1919 proposed to the synod of Constantinople the creation of “a league of Churches” similar to the League of Nations conceived by US President Thomas W. Wilson”22.←21 | 22→
It is therefore logical that, within the WCC, the political project of a federated Europe has found a number of influential supporters, starting with the one who was the main architect of the WCC and who, in 1948, became its first Secretary General, the Dutch Reformed pastor Willem A. Visser ‘t Hooft. He was also a close acquaintance of Ernesto Rossi and Altiero Spinelli, hosting them in Geneva, drafters of the Manifesto di Ventotene and founders in 1943 in Milan of the European Federalist Movement. At various levels and in various ways, the ecumenism-federalism link was discussed and developed with the WCC in the 1930s and 40s until the end of World War II. Also participating was a group of Germans in opposition to the Nazi regime, including the pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was a great friend of Visser ‘t Hooft. This was another group developing the idea that the future political structure of Europe should be federal23. The explicit proposal for a federal Europe and, in fact, for a confederated world, is contained in the document produced after the July 1944 conference of WCC collaborators of various nationalities on the role of churches in relation to the future world order. It reads: “The Church would remain deaf to the appeal God makes through current events if it fails to speak out in favour of a world federalist order, whose organisations would be provided with sufficient executive power to ensure a just peace, while amid the disputes that arise between nations”24. Two aspects are striking in this declaration. The first is that the central organisations of a federation of nations must have the power to override the will of individual countries – for instance, on matters concerning war and peace – thus curbing the intermittent anarchy and chaos created either by the periodic outbreak of nationalism or by the exercising of the various national sovereignties that still feel they have absolute, omnipotent and unchallengeable authority. The second is the claim that the desired commitment of the churches to help build “a world federalist order” would be the response to an “appeal” by God voiced through the tragedy of war. It is as if the federalist choice was not optional for the churches but should be an act of obedience to a divine commandment. However, such a document confirms not just how much interest there was in the WCC for the federalist political project but also with how much conviction the WCC had taken to it and strongly recommended it to the churches. The relationship between ecumenism and federalism is a little known page in the history of the Ecumenical Movement and its Council, and yet it deserves recognition not just for the theological and political interest it inspires but also for the value it can have today, both for the still divided churches and for the still shaky and incomplete European Union.←22 | 23→
[c] The third topic of great interest in the third part of the book is the very well documented account of the active participation of a group of Waldensians – those connected to the magazine Gioventù cristiana edited by Giovanni Miegge – in the Ecumenical Movement and, at the same time, in the project of a federated Europe, which they considered to be two sides of the same coin. Here the figure of Mario Alberto Rollier particularly stands out, a Waldensian of Milan where, during a clandestine meeting held at his home on August 27-28, 1943, the European Federalist Movement was founded. There were many federalist Waldensians at that time – including Willy Jervis, martyr of the Resistance. Also Adriano Olivetti was a federalist, from a Jewish family and with a Waldensian mother. In addition, there were some Waldensians in Piedmont who formed the original nucleus of the Movement, whose fundamental lines were those of Rossi and Spinelli’s Ventotene Manifesto – the “Magna Charta” of federalism in Italy and beyond. However, the most surprising and yet most eloquent event took place in the ancient Waldensian temple of Ciabàs in the municipality of Luserna S. Giovanni in Val Pellice, a building repeatedly destroyed by those who wanted to delete the Protestant presence in Italy, and rebuilt in its original form several times by the Waldensian community. On 1st to 3rd September 1945, just a few months after the end of the war, in a country and a Europe largely in ruins but which had recently begun reconstruction, there were held three “Theological Days” on the subject of Christian ecumenism and European federalism25. Seventy years later, we can only marvel at the clear and longsighted spiritual and political vision of that generation of Waldensians. And yet we cannot help but note with dismay how little of that vision the churches and Europe, and we with them, have been able to achieve. One speaker, for instance, emphasized the close relationship of “federalist reasoning with the ecumenical vocation”, tracing both back to the same spirituality rooted in the Reformed faith26. A pastor, in an article published in 1947, made a link between federalism and the experience of resistance to the various totalitarian regimes that dominated and bloodied Europe in the first half of last century, and wrote: “European federalism continues European ‘resistance’. Federalism is resistance, in the dynamic and progressive meaning the word has acquired over the long, tragic and glorious years”27. A certain amount of despair can be felt when comparing these and other speeches of the time with the current condition of Europe and the churches. Since then, no further mention of political federalism has been made in churches, and while there is much talk of ecumenism, the climate of relations between churches is much improved,←23 | 24→ the churches are less divided than in the past, they still continue to not be united; although “reconciled diversity” has been proposed, it is still not within sight. But it is above all the connection between ecumenism and federalism – a theme at Ciabàs in the distant 1945 – that has been completely lost from sight: a connection that would be worth resuming and presenting anew. The churches would gain in their mutual relations and governments would gain in their European policies. Much time has passed, but the construction of Europe is still, or once again, largely ahead of us. So it is not too late.
Rome, April 2016
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