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United through Diversity

An Insight into Federalism and Ecumenism within Italian Protestantism


Filippo Maria Giordano

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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I. Federalism: A Revolutionin the Political Thought


I. Federalism: A Revolutionin the Political Thought

1. What type of federalism?

Federico Chabod acknowledged that “one of the most dangerous risks a historian may be exposed to” is the “designation of age-old thoughts, feelings, doctrines […] through modern terms”, thus incautiously and deceptively transferring the “present meaning of these terms to those bygone ages”1. The above-mentioned warning will be our guiding light in the philological and conceptual explanation of the term federalism in relation to the less complex and problematic ideas of Europeanism and pacifism; these terms stem from a long and gradual transformation process, which had an impact on their contents and, sometimes, even on their spelling. These categories, however, are still deeply rooted in their past: the word “federalism” has not always implied a well-defined political system and ideology2, and it was often mistaken for its opposite, “confederalism”3.

Let us focus now on the original overlapping, or interchangeability of feelings deriving from the common sense of belonging to the European civilization as a cultural unity, to which the word “Europeanism” is usually associated, and to the word “cosmopolitism”, in the illuministic sense of the term. The latter, whose etymological meaning (κόσμος, ‘world-universe’, and πολίτης, ‘citizen’) reflected the direct and privileged relationship between men and the only inhabited world, was improperly transformed by the modern rationalist natural law theory (in the 17th and 18th centuries) and became synonymous with the European civilization itself. This was mainly due to the fact that these considerations...

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