Bible Interest Grows in Italy
MANY sincere people in Italy are searching God’s Word for the answers to the problems of life. They are happy at finding these answers and are becoming servants of God and proclaimers of the good news of his Messianic kingdom. Some typical true-life experiences show the strong desire that they have for learning more about God, and the obstacles that they overcome in doing so.
Often either to see or read the Bible is a new thing for many, even though they are nominal Christians. This was the situation in the case of one sincere person. He says:
“I was a Catholic, though I was not very diligent in attending church. However, when I did go to church I did it with a certain conviction and seriousness. But more and more I developed a feeling of emptiness in my heart and earnestly desired to be a more worthy worshiper of God. I had no knowledge of the Bible; so I began to think about reading it. Since I have a brother who is a Catholic priest, I asked him to get me a Bible. He made a gift of a copy to me, saying, ‘Read it and then we can have a talk.’ As I began to read I soon noticed the contrast between the Bible’s teachings and those of the Church. In the meantime, a friend spoke about some witnesses of Jehovah he had met at Turin. So I located them and arranged to have a Bible study with them. My brother did all he could to discourage me, and although he had success for a time, I soon resumed my study, making progress, and in 1974 I was baptized. I now have joy in living and do not have that feeling of emptiness that I had when I was in ignorance of God’s Word.”
Knowledge of God’s Name Enlightens
One of the features of the “good news” is the making known of God’s name, Jehovah. A man from southern Italy relates the effects that this knowledge had on him, saying:
“I had my first contact with Jehovah’s Witnesses many years ago. At the time I was a fervent Catholic and the very thought of missing Mass on Sunday was an unthinkable sin. For this reason I did not want to listen to the Witnesses when they came to my door. However, I finally agreed to a Bible discussion. One of the first things I learned was the name of our God—Jehovah. What struck me most was the number of times the Holy Scriptures mention this name of God, and that Jesus himself (in the model prayer he left for his disciples) placed the sanctification of this name in the forefront. Soon I saw that many of the teachings I had believed were unscriptural, being only traditions invented by men. So I made the necessary changes in my life. I resigned from the Church, left the various parish sporting clubs and made other changes. Later, my wife and I were baptized in water as servants of Jehovah and his Son Jesus Christ.”
Bible’s Message of Life Attracts Many
The desire for everlasting life as held forth in the Bible is a motivation for many people to look into God’s Word of truth. From Tuscany a man writes:
“My life used to be the same as that of so many Catholics. I believed in the existence of God and followed the traditional teachings of the Church. One day two of Jehovah’s Witnesses came to my door and I was particularly struck by one of their questions, ‘Would you like to see your children get married and your grandchildren and great-grandchildren grow up to be adults?’ You can imagine that I was interested in this proposal, when you consider that I am the father of 13 children. Furthermore, as caretaker of the local cemetery, I had spent most of my life surrounded by the dead. Therefore, the eternal life spoken of in the Bible seemed impossible to me, in spite of my religion. I accepted a Bible study right then and there. Soon members of my family began opposing me. The local priests also did their share to create trouble and there were other difficulties, like being threatened with the loss of my job. However, I persevered and this has brought good fruits. My wife is now interested in the ‘good news’ and my family is closely united. My children have a regular family Bible study to build up their faith and I thank Jehovah for having helped me to find peace of mind, a correct relationship with him and a solid hope for the future.”
Elderly Concerned About Serving God
The “good news” as proclaimed in Italy by Jehovah’s Witnesses is drawing persons of all ages, even “senior citizens” who, logically, are thinking very seriously about life and desire a hope for the future. A lady 60 years of age tells her experience, saying:
“From the age of 10 onward, that is to say, for 50 years, I had attended Mass and taken Communion every morning. My eldest daughter, who was also a devoted Catholic, had spoken with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Due to questions that arose, we felt the need of clarifying certain doctrinal points with a qualified priest. I was extremely surprised when the theologian we consulted explicitly declared that neither limbo nor purgatory exists. I felt as though everything I had believed in had collapsed around me. I realized that the things I had been doing for a lifetime may have been all in vain—for example, all the prayers and Masses said for the dead. In a further conversation we asked for an explanation of the Trinity, and my daughter asked: ‘If Jesus Christ were God, why did Satan try to tempt him if he knew he was God himself? Didn’t he realize that it would be useless?’ The priest’s reply was quite unacceptable. He said: ‘Satan did not know that Jesus was God.’ From then on we decided to engage in conversations with Jehovah’s Witnesses, using only the Bible as a basis. Soon six other members of the family and I accepted the truth and now I am baptized, a true worshiper of Jehovah God, happy to serve him in accordance with the truth of his Word.”
Is It Proper to Change One’s Religion?
Can a person who has gone so far as to enter into a religious order change his religion with God’s approval? A former Catholic monk tells his story, stating:
“The day of my 35th birthday was a very memorable one for me because it coincided with the day I decided to leave the monastery where I had been living for many years. Why did I make this decision? As a result of the disillusionments I had experienced. The cold atmosphere that permeated the environment, the use of formal language when addressing our superiors, the regular seclusion for meditation and penance, the vows of poverty and obedience carried to extreme lengths to mortify us—all these things made that life a very unhappy one. Another reason for my dissatisfaction was my conviction that the Bible was the Word of God. Yet I could not understand it. I asked my superiors questions, but I used to get the answer, ‘You cannot understand these things.’ After all those years I finally decided to leave. The abbot gave me the dispensation from my vows, saying with rage, ‘Take your passport to Hell!’
“After this I found a job in the city and a room in a private house. One evening, arriving home late, I passed by to say good-night to my landlady and was invited in to take part in a conversation that she was having with two men. I saw that they were studying the Bible. ‘Oh, good gracious!’ I mistakenly thought, ‘I have taken a room with Protestants!’ However, I accepted the invitation. Afterward, I decided to accept a Bible study in my own quarters. I started to reexamine my religion very carefully, but this merely confirmed what I already knew. Moreover, the Church was empty and cold. I then attended a meeting at a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses. What a difference! Everyone spoke to everyone else, they all knew each other well, and valuable instruction was imparted. I soon had the courage to miss Mass on Sunday for the first time. Later I attended a district assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I looked around very carefully, to see whether other congregations had the same faith and spirit, and I was won over when I saw the identical spirit, faith and brotherly love among all attending. Finally I was baptized exactly one year after my leaving the monastery.”
As the apostle Paul wrote: “The word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of joints and their marrow, and is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12) It can transform lives. Its truth is enlightening to the mind and heart, giving a purpose in life and a hope for the future. Those who sincerely study it develop a love for their fellowman. This love is often the first thing that attracts those sincerely searching for God. Jesus pointed out that this would be true when he said: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.”—John 13:35.
Thus the “good news” proclaimed by Jehovah’s Witnesses is finding a ready place in the hearts of many Italian people. The 42 congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses now in Rome, as well as the more than 1,200 other congregations in all of Italy, are flourishing and increasing. At the Witnesses’ recent conventions in Rome and Milan there was an attendance of more than 111,000! And 2,288 were baptized, to join in spreading the “good news” to many more God-fearing persons here in Italy.