As Alfredo Del Rosso's scheduled retirement date of August of 1969 approached, he began to have second thoughts about stepping down as pastor of the Church of the Nazarene in Civitavecchia, Italy. He attempted to talk missionary superintendent Roy Fuller into just one more year in that coastal town, suggesting that young Salvatore Scognamiglio -- who was slated to replace him -- could be put to work in another church for one year. Perhaps the now 79-year-old Del Rosso feared the unknowns of being completely retired. He was alone. His wife Niny was gone. But Roy Fuller didn't budge and kindly, but firmly insisted that Del Rosso step down and allow Scognamiglio to step in as planned.
Del Rosso's thoughts may have included some economic uncertainties. When he stepped down as pastor, he would continue to receive the monthly pension he had been granted in 1961. However, since he was no longer pastoring, he would not be provided the housing and utilities which had come with the Civitavecchia assignment. As a result of that loss of that benefit, Alfredo Del Rosso moved to Prato upon his retirement to live with his daughter Maria and her family in their condominium apartment. Son-in-law Alberto Parenti had become a public relations representative for the huge Italian textile manufacturers' association headquartered near Florence. Salvatore Scognamiglio and his family arrived from European Nazarene College in Busingen (Germany) to pastor the 90-member strong Civitavecchia congregation.
At that point, Alfredo Del Rosso did not retreat to rocking-chair retirement. He continued doing some translation work. In 1970 he wrote Roy Fuller that he had completed a thorough revision of the Nazarene Manual translation which he had done some time before. As far as I could find out, however, that particular manuscript was never printed.
The work of the district for which Del Rosso had laid the foundations also continued to progress. In 1971 two more men were ordained and that summer the district's first youth camp was conducted (the Italians had already participated in two all-Europe youth institutes).
After property had been purchased and renovated for church/office/parsonage space in the Montesacro suburb of Rome, the Fullers invited Del Rosso to give the dedicatory address. However, a snowstorm prevented him from making the trip from Prato to Rome. The new chapel was located close to the home of Del Rosso's daughter Noemi, and she and her family joined the Boccinis and the Fullers to become the nucleus of that congregation. Two of Del Rosso's other daughters, Febe and Lea, were part of the Salvation Army in England and Italy.
Reflecting his burden for the spiritual health of his family, Del Rosso wrote to Roy Fuller in November of 1973, "May the Lord bless all our dear families and give us to see all our dear ones saved and sanctified by the Holy Spirit." It was only natural that Del Rosso should hope that his children and grandchildren would form part of a strong corps of second- and third-generation Nazarenes and thus carry forward his legacy. That didn't happen to the degree he had long hoped, but after all, his family had been about grown when he became a Nazarene in 1948.
Alfredo Del Rosso's vision for a holiness work that would reach every Italian burned bright to the very end of his life. In April of 1973 he wrote to Roy Fuller, "May the Lord give us a revival of preaching in the Holy Spirit and Italy will return as it was in the times of the first saints and apostles in Rome." His dreams also continued to reach beyond the borders of Italy. In March of 1974 Del Rosso made a moving plea for an Italian-speaking pastor to be sent to minister to the Italian-speaking population near European Nazarene College in the area of Schaffhausen, Switzerland. After nearly half a century, it's a plea that is yet to be answered.
After our own appointment to Italy in January of 1974, a story along with photos of all the new missionary appointees and our assignments appeared in the English-language Herald of Holiness (now called Holiness Today). Upon receiving his copy, Del Rosso wrote to Roy Fuller, "I saw in the Herald of Holiness the photos of two new missionaries to Italy. May the Lord bless them and bring them to our country with His blessing. They will be two more souls working in Italy that believe in the full salvation from sin."
At the 1975 district assembly conducted in the just-dedicated Moncalieri church building in suburban Turin, district leadership was faced with a confession of adultery by Pastor Alberto Ricchiardino, one of the men ordained in 1971 and who was then leader of the Moncalieri congregation. The denomination had to ask that Ricchiardino surrender his credentials as an ordained elder. After a sad meeting of the Italian Board of Ministerial Credentials with General Superintendent Edward Lawlor, Del Rosso wrote Roy Fuller, "Forward, dear brother. Forward, young missionaries . . . The Nazarene work will go forward and prosper. Every church will be revived. Other churches will join. Young people will consecrate their lives and will go to the Bible school to prepare themselves for the holiness work in Italy! Hallelujah! God is with us!"
It was the kind of uplifting letter that Roy Fuller needed at that moment. Only two years before he had had to take the credentials from another Italian pastor, Rev. Izzo, who had been caught taking money from a bookstore where he worked in Naples. Now another promising and effective man on the district had let Satan enter his life and sabotage his ministry. Those were tough blows for missionary Fuller, but the strong support and encouragement of Del Rosso helped to soften it.
To be sure, Alfredo Del Rosso wasn't without his faults -- but he poured his life into proclaiming full salvation from all sin. As he grew old, he did not become bitter. He did not become disgusted with the way the younger generation ran things in the church nor did he ever express fear for its continued existence.
Asked to lead a morning Bible study at the 1975 Nazarene family camp held on the Italian Riviera, Alfredo Del Rosso used one session to lead Olga Spannacini to the Lord. Olga had come to the camp to aid her handicapped son who had been a part of the Florence congregation for two decades. The fire ignited in this 65-year old woman's heart after her conversion soon brought an elementary-age granddaughter to the Lord and then one of her two daughters and her husband -- all as a result of Del Rosso's clear witness and insistent challenge.
To the end of his life in 1985 Alfredo Del Rosso's one concern remained that the Nazarenes maintain a clear doctrine of entire sanctification and that the experience be a reality in their lives. In a letter to Roy Fuller in February of 1975 he noted, "Great is the need of preaching true holiness." That same month, during a district-wide evangelism conference held in Rome, I saw him take aside Domenico Calabrese, a local preacher from Florence, and explain to him "more clearly the way of holiness" after Calabrese said something which Del Rosso thought revealed theological confusion on Calabrese's part.
Alfredo Del Rosso still enjoyed playing his accordion and nearly every Sunday traveled the 20 miles from Prato to Florence on the bus to participate in morning worship. He was also used on the district as a supply preacher when pastors had to be gone from their posts. Age, however, began to slow Del Rosso down. One evening during the 1976 district assembly in Florence, he collapsed and had to be rushed to the hospital by Maria and her husband. The delegates were greatly concerned for him and even had special prayer. By the next evening Del Rosso was feeling good enough to exert some authority and sign himself out of the hospital.
One odd thing in Alfredo Del Rosso's personal story is that a tight filming schedule prevented his appearing in Mission Europe, a 1970's film produced on Nazarene work and ministry in Europe. The filming had to he done in the summer of 1974 immediately following the Nazarene World Youth Conference in Switzerland. During that particular period Alfredo Del Rosso was out of the country on vacation with family and friends. So, sadly, the man who had been responsible for planting the Church of the Nazarene on the European continent was conspicuously absent from that film.
What evaluation can we make today of Alfredo Del Rosso, this man who's revered by some and maligned by others? Well, he and his wife were instrumental in planting the two strongest Nazarene churches in Italy -- Florence and Civitavecchia. Through him almost all other existing congregations had their beginnings -- either as a result of his contacts or of contacts made by his contacts. He helped to launch the publishing program and was superintendent when the fledgling Bible school was launched which eventually merged with the German school to become European Nazarene College. The second generation of Nazarenes has taken over. The son of Angelo Cereda attended European Nazarene College to prepare for the ministry and is now the Nazarene leader in Sicily. Elide Capannoli (of the Florence Lagomarsino family) opened her home in Siena for the start of a work in the city where Del Rosso grew up. By the late 1970's, the Italian district had passed the 40 percent self-support level and had accepted the challenge of becoming a regular district by the year 1990 when Alfredo Del Rosso would have turned 100 (he died in 1985 at age 95). At the 1977 district assembly, Salvatore Scognamiglio was named district superintendent by General Superintendent V. H. Lewis.
At the 1975 district assembly General Superintendent Edward Lawlor preached a stirring message on "Mastered by a vision."
You ask me what my evaluation is of Del Rosso? I think that's it: here's a man who allowed himself to be mastered by a vision. Looking back over the years from this vantage point in time, he had been a man who was in the right place at the right moment and who allowed himself to be guided by that vision from the Holy Spirit.
1: Introduction |
2: If this be Pentecostalism |
3: Out under the stars |
4: The Nazarenes have landed and th
e situation is well in hand |
5: Superintendent Del Rosso |
6: Retirement? Not quite |
7: Retirement? Finally |
Material for this biography was gathered in Italy in the late 1970s from letters, books, magazine articles and interviews with many of the principal characters including several missionaries to Italy, Alfredo Del Rosso himself (1890-1985) and members of his family. Many of those interviewed for this biography have since died.
Printed resources include In Their Steps by D. I. Vanderpool (Beacon Hill Press, 1956) and They of Italy Salute You by Earl Morgan (Nazarene Publishing House, 1958)
Complete text of book in PDF format: Del Rosso's biography in English Del Rosso's biography in Italian
-- Howard Culbertson,