The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often misnamed the “Mormon Church”) has reached a milestone in Italy. For decades, it has sought status with the Italian government. A small victory was achieved in 1993, when the government finally recognized the “Mormon Church” as a legal entity. However, it was recognized only as a charitable institution, not as a church.
July 30, 2012, saw the “Mormon Church” gain status as a “partner of state” with the Italian government, when Italy’s President Giorgio Napolitano signed the Intesa con la Stato, or legal agreement giving the church far more freedom. Earlier in the month, the Italian Senate had already approved the Church’s request for an intesa, which only a few religions have received, including Catholics, Jews, Baptists, and Methodists. This document will soon be published in the Gazzetta Ufficiale, the official record of the Italian government.
What this recognition does is enable the LDS Church (“Mormon Church”) to own property. It also gives LDS ecclesiastical leaders the power to perform marriage ceremonies, which power they had previously been denied. Now the LDS Church is recognized as a church, not just as a charitable institution.
John Zackrison, director of the International Coordinating Committee for the Church, explained: “It [the intesa] will eliminate current barriers that frequently interfere with our Church leaders performing marriages and otherwise ministering, it will smooth the process for obtaining visas for missionaries and mission presidents, and it will grant unquestioned freedom for the Church to perform any functions or activities deemed essential to its worldwide mission.” Another freedom granted the Latter-day Saint clergy is the ability to visit members and those in need with automatic access to state hospitals, prisons and military barracks.
One of the most significant changes the Church’s new status brings is strengthened relationships with government officials, which will enable the Church to work more effectively in community relief efforts with the Catholic Church and other recognized religious denominations.
Being recognized as a partner of the state is a huge symbolic victory for the “Mormon Church,” especially for Italian Latter-day Saints. While the 25,000 Italian Latter-day Saints look forward to the completion of the Rome Mormon Temple, they feel they have earned recognition and respect, as well as more freedom.
To appreciate the significance of this step, compare Mormonism in Italy to Islam, the second-largest religion in Italy (second obviously to Catholicism), with 1.25 million members, which has not yet been granted an intesa. Latter-day Saint leaders have worked closely with the government for many years. The faithful Latter-day Saints in Italy have shown by example and faith that they are worthy to be recognized by the government. Hopefully faithful members of other religions will also be granted the freedom to worship how they choose.
On Sunday, July 10, a letter from the Rome Italy Stake Presidency was read in area sacrament meetings announcing that construction of the temple had officially begun. Since the formal groundbreaking in October, activity at the temple site has been limited to site activities including clearing, grading, transplanting, erection of a construction fence, and placement of construction trailers.
*As construction progresses, the submission of regular photographs is highly appreciated by members worldwide who wish to witness the construction of this beautiful temple in historic Rome.
Each Mormon temple, upon completion of its construction, is open to the general public for a period of a few weeks. This is prior to the temple’s dedication. Once an LDS temple (a temple belonging to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as the Mormon Church is officially known) is dedicated, only those Mormons who carry temple recommends may enter. However, before a temple’s dedication, members of the public who wish to are permitted to walk through the temple. This is a wonderful opportunity for Mormons to show the public that there is nothing secretive or cultish which goes on in Mormon temples.
During an open house, a member of the public may walk through all the rooms where temple work is done: the endowment room, the sealing room, and the baptistry, for example. The celestial room is often a favorite, though no ordinances are actually performed in this room. Visitors may also walk through the general sitting rooms, the brides’ rooms, etc. In doing this, visitors can see that the temple is beautiful, is made out of the best materials, and that the rooms where Mormon temple work is done are fairly straightforward.
There is usually quite a large response from the public when a temple is open for an open house. Because of the large response, visitors are often required to make reservations. However, there is no fee to visit. The reservations simply help control the flow of traffic and help coordinators manage larger crowds. Visitors to Mormon temple open houses are often required to wear disposable booties over their shoes to minimize the dirt brought into the temples.
Missionaries and temple workers are present to answer questions visitors may have and to explain gospel principles and what temple work is all about. The completion of the Rome Italy Temple is anticipated to be in 2013, and the open house will take place in the month or so before its dedication.
The Rome Italy Temple will include a complex with the temple at its center. Other buildings in the complex will include a stake center (a large Mormon meetinghouse used for gatherings of multiple congregations), a visitors’ center housing exhibitions explaining Mormon Church history and temple work, a family history center which will be open to the public at no charge to aid in genealogical research, a patron housing facility for temple workers and patrons who must travel long distances to reach the temple, and beautiful gardens.
Rome Mission President, Jeffrey Acerson, was visibly moved by the news: “The Saints in Italy have waited a long time. We’re excited, we’re anxious and we’re very humbled by the decisionof prophet of the Lord to move forward with a temple in Rome.” When he first heard the news, President Acerson commented: “I felt like all the Saints here in Italy wanted to go into the streets to let everyone know a temple is coming,” he said.
Karen Acerson, wife of Mormon Mission President, Jeffrey Acerson, journaled her thoughts as they flowed during the historic announcement of the Rome, Italy temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
On Saturday morning in Utah (Saturday evening in Rome), our prophet, President Monson announced that five new temples would be built. As he started naming each temple, I thought in my mind, “Someday, a prophet will say, ‘Rome, Italy.’” I remember repeating it wishfully a couple of times in my mind as he named each one. When he got to the end of the list of temples and said, “Rome, Italy” I let out a small scream, buried my head in my hands, and cried. We all cried.
The assistant to the Mission President described what happened as the announcement was made in the local meetinghouse, or Stake Center, of The Church of JesusChrist of Latter-day Saints (Mormons):
He said that when President Monson said, “Rome, Italy” in English, the person translating it into Italian paused and said, “What?” and then took a half second to let it sink in, then said, “Roma, Italia.” The congregation leapt to their feet, cheering and clapping. He said, “The women were crying, the men were hugging each other, and everyone was overwhelmed with surprise and joy.
Those responses paralleled those in the States. Exultant cries, gasps, sighs, embraces, tears, all accompanied the announcement of this and the Cordoba, Philadelphia, Kansas City, and Alberta temples.
There are currently more than 22,000 Mormons in Italy now, with the first Italian mission opened in August of 1850.
The temple opens the way for Saints in many areas to travel to Rome rather than to Bern, Switzerland in order to share in the blessings of eternal families, and to partake of the spiritual learning that the temple offers.
Other European temples include:
The Hague, Netherlands
Temples are the Lord’s houses on the earth. In these dedicated buildings, anyone who has conformed to the commandments of the Lord or who is so striving to do, and who has been baptized by God’s ministers on the earth (priesthood of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), and who is twelve or older can enter and serve in a holy temple. It is a place of peace and revelation, a place of service and of learning. Special ordinances, including baptisms, confirmations, and sealings of couples together forever, occurs in these edifices. They are not secret but sacred. In these temples, as in temples of old, the children of God are reminded of the answers to life’s questions, the role of the Savior and His atonement in personal progression, and receive the ordinances necessary to continue relationships beyond this grave and extend the gospel to millions who have passed on without having had such an opportunity.
On an historic day and in a monumental city, a new temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began in Rome, Italy, on October 23, 2010. Thomas S. Monson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, along with Church and local community leaders, participated in the traditional groundbreaking ceremony.
Expressing with all the Italian Saints and invited guests, and with many looking on with great interest and joy in other parts of the world, President Monson’s words at the October 23rd groundbreaking of the LDS Rome Temple resound:
“My heart is filled with gratitude,” said President Monson as he addressed the 500 guests in attendance. “Members throughout Italy, and the entire Mediterranean area, will be able to come here.”
President Monson expressed his gratitude to the members of the Church for their commitment to walk in the path the Savior, Jesus Christ and to follow His example. The influence of a temple, and this temple, is far-reaching. It was a great day for the Saints in Italy, who are now looking forward to the day in which the temple will be completed and dedicated, estimated to be in 2013. When the temple is completed, Italian Mormons will finally be able to perform sacred ordinances in their own country instead of travelling to the Swiss Temple, as they have done for many years.
The historic groundbreaking for the Rome Italy Mormon Temple took place in a profoundly joyful moment led by Mormon Prophet, President Thomas S. Monson. This is a dream realized for many Italian Saints and leaders and friends everywhere. Here is the video of the groundbreaking as it occurred on October 23, 2010.
The temple is a House of the Lord wherein worthy members of the Church—of whom there are 23,000 in the Rome area—can be sealed together forever as families. The House of the Lord serves those beyond Rome and will be a place of worship, service, power, revelation, and beauty for all those who attend and who live within the sphere of its holy influence.
Twice a year, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly called the Mormon Church) gather for a General Conference. This happens in April and again in October each year. During this two-day conference, church leaders talk to church members across the world about topics close to their hearts. On Sunday, April 3, 2011, President Thomas S. Monson, prophet of the Mormon Church, spoke some tender words regarding temples. He also specifically spoke about the temple being built in Rome. Here are his words:
The world can be a challenging and difficult place in which to live. We are often surrounded by that which would drag us down. As you and I go to the holy houses of God, as we remember the covenants we make within, we will be more able to bear every trial and to overcome each temptation. In this sacred sanctuary we will find peace; we will be renewed and fortified.
Now, my brothers and sisters, may I mention one more temple before I close. In the not-too-distant future as new temples take shape around the world, one will rise in a city which came into being over 2,500 years ago. I speak of the temple which is now being built in Rome, Italy.
Every temple is a house of God, filling the same functions and with identical blessings and ordinances. The Rome Italy Temple, uniquely, is being built in one of the most historic locations in the world, a city where the ancient Apostles Peter and Paul preached the gospel of Christ and where each was martyred.
Last October, as we gathered on a lovely pastoral site in the northeast corner of Rome, it was my opportunity to offer a prayer of dedication as we prepared to break the ground. I felt impressed to call upon Italian senator Lucio Malan and Rome’s vice-mayor Giuseppe Ciardi to be among the first to turn a shovelful of earth. Each had been a part of the decision to allow us to build a temple in their city.
The day was overcast but warm, and although rain threatened, not more than a drop or two fell. As the magnificent choir sang in Italian the beautiful strains of “The Spirit of God,” one felt as though heaven and earth were joined in a glorious hymn of praise and gratitude to Almighty God. Tears could not be restrained.
In a coming day, the faithful in this, the Eternal City, will receive ordinances eternal in nature in a holy house of God.
I express my undying gratitude to my Heavenly Father for the temple now being built in Rome and for all of our temples, wherever they are. Each one stands as a beacon to the world, an expression of our testimony that God, our Eternal Father, lives, that He desires to bless us and, indeed, to bless His sons and daughters of all generations. Each of our temples is an expression of our testimony that life beyond the grave is as real and as certain as is our life here on earth. I so testify.
My beloved brothers and sisters, may we make whatever sacrifices are necessary to attend the temple and to have the spirit of the temple in our hearts and in our homes. May we follow in the footsteps of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who made the ultimate sacrifice for us, that we might have eternal life and exaltation in our Heavenly Father’s kingdom. This is my sincere prayer, and I offer it in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord, amen.
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