The Italian Union Committee held in Florence decided to have a special evangelistic campaign in Rome with the collaboration of some evangelists and colporteurs. It is not easy to get the use of halls for religious meetings here in Rome. Many of them belong to the Roman Catholic Church, so the only thing we could do was to look for a cinema hall. We wanted to hold our meetings on Sunday morning instead of Sunday afternoon as we did before. We visited many of the owners of these halls, but they were not a bit interested. They thought all religious and cultural conferences should come from the Roman Catholic Church only, that is the position here.
God helped us to find the right place, however. It was the Cinema Massimo Hall, centrally located on the Piazzale Appio, near the ancient Aurelian walls. Not far from here is the famous Appia Antica with the Porta Capena by which it is said Paul entered Rome after having met the brethren at the Appii Forum and the three taverns (Acts 28:14-16). About two hundred meters from the Piazzale Appio, on which verge seven important thoroughfares, the famous Basilica San Giovanni in Laterano, cathedral of Rome, rises majestic and imposing. Just near is the famous palace partly built on the ruins of the ancient Palace of the Laterani, which Constantine gave to the bishop of Rome. This palace was the first residence of the popes before they transferred their headquarters to Avignon, where were held five ecumenical councils. The Lateran Pacts between Italy and the Holy See were signed here in 1929. In front of this basilica is the famous Scala Santa, which tradition says Jesus descended on the day of His trial in the palace of Pilate.According to the Spirit of Prophecy, Martin Luther, while going up these stairs, heard a voice telling him: " The just shall live by faith' " (The Great Controversy, p. 125). Each day hundreds of people from all parts of the world go up kneeling on these stairs. By doing this they think to have their sins forgiven. In front of the Cinema Massimo, on the other side of Piazzale Appio, is another great basilica, the Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. It was built, according to tradition, by Emperor Constantine in A.D. 320 and was renewed in the twelfth century. With this historical background, in the capital of Catholicism, God has given us the joy of having a series of Sunday meetings well attended by an interested public.
To advertise our course of lectures five colporteurs rendered valuable assistance. Two weeks before we opened our meetings they went from house to house in the area of San Giovanni, selling religious books such as Steps to Christ, and our magazines Signs of the Times and Life and Health. They also distributed thousands of pamphlets announcing our meetings.
From January 19 to March 8 an average of four hundred people attended our evangelistic campaign. Each Sunday morning our meeting was begun by the showing of a documentary film and a musical program. The church members of Rome took an active part in this campaign and upheld us with their prayers and their missionary activities. During the time of the meetings silent prayers by the church members ascended to the throne of God to implore His help.
At five o'clock in the afternoon another meeting was held in our local church in Lungotevere Michelangelo, 7. This is in a different part of town. The speaker was Antonio Caracciolo, who is a member of the editorial staff of our Signs of the Times and Messaggero Adventista. Meetings were attended by about one hundred interested people.
From March 15 to May 31 our public meetings in the San Giovanni area decreased somewhat, but about one hundred really interested people attended Sunday by Sunday. They followed with attention the explanation of Daniel 7, 8, and other important Adventist doctrines.
Besides the writer and A. Caracciolo, many others assisted in this campaign, including G. Cau, A. Battista, G. Martino, L. Marzocchini, F. Udovicich, and Sister C. Masiello. Those who helped with our musical programs were G. De IVIeo and Sisters G. Lippolis-Lamuraglia and S. Pagano.
On June 13 we opened an evangelistic center; in this new area we hold our Sunday meetings, and also meet on Sabbath afternoons. A Sabbath school has been organized and we are studying the book of Revelation. Most of these interested people come to our Sabbath afternoon meetings. A group of laymen, collaborating with the pastor and the Bible instructor, take care of them.
At the end of October, 1964, we had the joy of having a baptism as a result of these efforts. It is not easy to hold public evangelistic meetings in this city. All the time we are up against the barriers of Catholic tradition. We need to have much perseverance, many prayers, and the help of God to carry on His work. However, I am persuaded that God will raise up in this country many sincere people who will want to prepare themselves for the second coming of Christ. May the example of Paul who preached Christ and Him crucified in this place encourage us to continue our work for the Master.