The Waldensian Methodist Church of Italy has announced that the date is set and the program is organized for Pope Francis to make an official visit to the Waldensian Temple of Turin. There he will meet with the world’s oldest reformed community. No pope has ever crossed the threshold of a Waldensian temple.
The historic meeting on June 22, 2015 is hailed by the Waldensian Church as “a gesture of brotherhood in a new ecumenical season.” Pope Francis will visit the Shroud of Turin on the 200th anniversary of the birth of so-called St. John Bosco.
“It will be a meeting with sober and ecumenical brotherhood that in the last two years we have seen grow and strengthen,” said the moderator of the Waldensian Board, Eugenio Bernardini. “Sobriety and fraternity… are typical of the Waldensian tradition but also the style of this pope who, on several occasions, has created a climate of mutual attention, thus opening a new ecumenical season.”
For his part, the Pope has also repeatedly expressed words of friendship and appreciation for the Waldensian Church and briefly met Bernardini in September of 2013. That meeting, “with words and gestures much appreciated,” led to the upcoming temple visit.
The Waldensian Temple in Turin was the first temple build outside the Waldensian Valleys after the emancipation granted to them by King Carlos Alberto in 1848. To the Waldensian church the temple symbolizes leaving behind the era of persecution and entering on the path of freedom.
The pope knows the Waldensian Church because there are communities of them in Argentina and Uruguay. Perhaps it should also be pointed out that Pope Francis’ ancestors came from the region in Italy along the Po river valley where the ancient Waldenses lived before their persecutions began, which caused them to move into the mountain area west of Turin. What other churches might Francis have in mind for ecumenical rapprochement? And what contacts might have already been made with them?
“And all the world wondered…” Revelation 13:3