February 17th is an historic date for the Waldensian Church in Italy. On this day in the year 1848 King Carlo Alberto signed the “Lettere Patenti’ bestowing legal rights on his Waldensian subjects.
His decision was welcomed with great enthusiasm and celebrated with bonfires. The tradition of the “Bonfire of liberty” is still practiced today and has spread to other Protestant Churches in Italy.
There are many contacts between the Waldensians and the members of the Focolare Movement in Italy. Here is one experience of a priest focolarino, a Waldensian pastor and their communities recounted by them: “In our city of Turin, mutual understanding between Catholics and Waldensians began more than twenty years ago, when we began meeting one evening a month for Bible reading and common prayer, and this has continued until now. This greatly favoured the work of the Comitato Interfedi that was instituted for the Olympic Games in Turin. Seeing the great harmony that was created, this Committee remained as a permanent municipal organization.
The atmosphere at these gatherings has always been very beautiful and in this context we began to talk about doing something together, about a trip to the Holy Land. It was proposed as a “Journey of Prayer and Study” and turned out to be quite a success.
Our journey to the Holy Land took place on 1-9 September 2012. Each morning the priest gave a meditation on the spiritual significance of the holy places that we visited and then a Biblical reflection was offered by the pastor. A further explanation was given at each holy site by the Focolare guide who accompanied us. Our wish was: “to go back to the origins, to the times when Christian history began,” to find a unity that goes beyond the divisions that now divide us. Not to deny that these divisions exist, but to live a moment of real communion even in this tormented land.
Some significant moments included: the celebration of the Holy Supper by the Waldensians in the presence of Roman Catholics and the Catholic Mass in the presence of the Waldensians, where the presence of Jesus among two or more who are united in his name became a tangible experience (see Mt. 18:20).
Back home we met again to share our impressions and experiences. This experience will certainly be repeated, because during our journey we changed from being unknown and a bit suspicious, to becoming brothers and sisters more and more united in our common Baptism, the common Apostolic Creed and especially in our faith in the God who is Love whom we acknowledge together each time we recite the Our Father.
Compiled by Centro «Uno»