Italian Catholics and Protestants alike were caught off guard by what took place in Rome when the Catholic Pentecostals hit town last month for their four-day congress on the “charismatic renewal” in the Catholic Church (see June 6 issue, page 45). Not since Francis of Assisi sang and marched happily through the streets of the Eternal City with his brothers the Friars Minor has Rome beheld such expressive Christian joy. “The atmosphere … was absolutely untypical of any great gathering of Catholics that has ever gathered in Italy, whether of traditionalists, or of the moderates, or of the progressives,” commented the Catholic-Protestant dissident weekly, Com-Nuovi Tempi. The paper in a front-page article criticized the gathering for its alleged anti-Communist stance.

Except for a vast distribution of the Bible in inexpensive modern translations, Catholic renewal in Italy has been principally liturgical and sociological. A great surge to the political left since Vatican Council II is monopolizing the energies of people and priests, and there is little evidence of the kind of spiritual renewal seen in Catholic circles in North America. Italian Catholicism is deeply divided between two camps: the leftist dissidents bent upon renewal of the church through political action, and the die-hard traditionalists, determined to shut the windows opened by Pope John XXIII. Italian Catholic charismatics are rare, although several groups of as many as 200 meet weekly in Rome and Milan.

Generally, Italian Protestants, 80 per cent of whom are Pentecostals, assumed a negative attitude toward the “biblical” or “born-again” Catholics (as many charismatics are described even by fellow Catholics) who seem determined to remain within the church of ...

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