Pastor Pippo Rizza
Called the “Counter Reformation,” between 1545 and 1563, twenty five councils of the Church of Rome met here in opposition to the Protestant Reformation. This city became the “line drawn in the sand.” Protestantism might have come this far but it would come no farther.
Standing there in the Piazza, staring at the very church where this all took place, I felt the hair raise up on the back of my neck. I sensed the spirit of defiance come upon me. I felt similar to the time friends of mine took me from Napoli to the coast where at the port of Pozzuoli there stood a monument to St. Paul. He had been brought there in chains from Syracuse to eventually be beheaded in Rome. Indignation is the word that describes my feelings on both occasions.
On Wednesday morning Emile drove me to meet Pastor Pippo, a Facebook friend that I had never spoken to but have come to admire at a distance. He is the leader of a growing evangelical church of some one-hundred people.
This is a city with a history. To be a Protestant here has for me added value and meaning. I love to think that God saves a man and sends him here to face down a giant. Pippo is a university Economics and Finance professor and as with most pastors here, they must be bi-vocational or they will soon be starved out.
We caught sight of him coming across the Piazza and after a quick greeting sat down and had a coffee. Following this, Pippo took us on a historical tour, inside the Duomo, through the streets of almost Austrian architecture decorated with motifs and frescoes coming from as far back as the Renaissance.
Finally, when lunch time rolled around I was taken to an historical pizzeria. I have taken a photograph to show you what this was like. You will notice the number “408.” Let me explain that was our table number and it is my guess that we were only seated two-thirds of the way into the restaurant. It was enormous.
On the right you will see a doorway closed to the public. This was the meeting of the lutheran Church and now called the “House of the Devil” by the Catholic Church. Pippo had this novel idea to open it up for a meeting place but was promptly told.”No” by the city Fathers. There is always a protectionist and sympathetic City Hall which makes sure that it is made as difficult as possible (actually, IMPOSSIBLE) for the Evangelical which is classified as an undisreable Cult (“sect” in Italy) by the Roman church. By contrast, you would be stunned to see how the Bishop lives in Versaille styled opulence.
We left the restaurant, found our car and promised to stay connected. Emile drove me off to Parma where we met ACCI members, Francesco and Aldo two and one-half hours later.