In Italy’s population of 50 million 98 per cent are nominally Roman Catholics, but only about 25 per cent of these attend Mass. Among lower classes piety often degenerates into superstition; this is true particularly of the south, where religious festivals, pilgrimages and visits to local shrines play a large part in the lives of the peasants. In this world center of Roman Catholicism, one finds increasing agnosticism among the intelligentsia, and a higher proportion of Communists than in any other non-Soviet country in Europe.
Protestants number just over 100,000, with more than a quarter of these belonging to the Waldensian church, the only indigenous Protestant body (others have been founded by missionaries from foreign countries). This church, whose origins are traced back to Peter Waldo in the late twelfth century, has always placed a strong emphasis on biblical and evangelical teaching. It has congregations in many parts of Italy, and a theological college in Rome.
The International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, specially concerned with the country’s 21 universities, finds that students (not surprisingly in a country both ignorant and intolerant of Protestantism) are reluctant to show interest for fear of the priests. Nevertheless, small groups meet here and there for Bible study; others are reached as a result of correspondence courses and through the evangelical magazine Cerpezze, and one or two conversions are reported each year. A reading room has been opened in Rome.
J. D. DOUGLAS
Progress through persecution is the story of Spanish Protestantism during the past 50 years. The 4,000 evangelicals were greatly restricted but the coming of full religious freedom of the Republic in 1931 was not used to ...1
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