2. If this be Pentecostalism . . .

Alfredo Del Rosso, pioneer of the Church of the Nazarene in Italy (part 2)

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. Most of those interviewed for this biography have since died.

The Church of the Nazarene was granted legal standing as a denomination by the Italian government in 1961. This recognition did not, however, signal that a new mission field was being opened by the Nazarenes. Since the summer of 1948, the Nazarene General Board departments of Home and World Missions had been supporting and administering ministry in Italy. Even 1948 is far too late to begin tracing the history of Nazarene work in Italy. The roots of the Nazarene movement in this boot-shaped European country go back to 1890.

In the U.S., 1890 was the year a Methodist preacher named Bresee was moving from the pastorate of the Pasadena, California, Methodist Church to the Los Angeles Asbury Methodist Church, a move partially caused by the heavy criticism he was receiving for his insistent preaching of second-blessing holiness. That same summer of 1890, a quarter of the way around the world, a third son was born to Italo Del Rosso, a railroad worker living in Poggibonsi, a central Italian town of 10,000 people surrounded by olive groves and grape vineyards. If Italian custom was followed, on the day of Alfredo's birth a large blue ribbon bow would have appeared on the door of the family home. It was through Alfredo that God would plant the Church of the Nazarene on that southern European peninsula where first-century Christianity had found fertile soil.

The Del Rosso family was somewhat typical for its time. Italo, like quite a few Italians of the day, played the accordion. Religiously, he was a nominal Roman Catholic while Alfredo's mother, captivated by the rise of humanistic socialism, said she was an atheist. Italy, however, is a land encrusted by centuries of Roman Catholic tradition. Family traditions that run deep often override personal beliefs. So a week after his July 7 birth, little Alfredo was taken down to the rather drab-looking Collegiate Church of Poggibonsi to be baptized.

Not long afterward, Alfredo Del Rosso's father was transferred by the railroad about 20 miles southward to Siena where he was made supervisor in the freight handling department. It was in Siena that Alfredo grew up. Being there would afford Alfredo a wider view of the world than the little town of Poggibonsi would have been able to give him.

Siena, like most of Italy's cities, is old. It looks like it was preserved almost intact out of the Middle Ages. It is full of great stone buildings lining twisting cobblestone streets. The old city lies in a Y-shape across three steep hills. Because of the terrain on which they are built, Siena's streets can suddenly become flights of steps, and flights of steps end at subterranean restaurants or magnificent churches.

Confirmation for Roman Catholic youngsters could take place when they were about seven years old. So with his neighborhood peers, Alfredo began attending doctrine classes at the parish church. It looked like Alfredo Del Rosso was on his way to becoming an ordinary Italian Roman Catholic. He carried around little images of saints as good-luck charms and had a statue of the Madonna over his bed. But in that confirmation class Alfredo Del Rosso began to have some very disturbing experiences. He was a boisterous youngster by nature and, by his account, the priests responded quite roughly to him, slapping, threatening, and sending him out of the classroom to discipline him. A few times they forced the children to pray kneeling on a layer of dried beans on the hard marble floor. Such forced penance had little effect on the heart of young Alfredo except to turn him away from what he eventually came to believe was a caricature of authentic Christianity. Because of the way he was treated, Alfredo Del Rosso did not go through with his confirmation ceremony.

Alfredo had reached school age. The family wanted him to get an education, so they made a decision based solely on financial grounds -- or at least they thought so. His mother decided to send Alfredo to the Waldensian elementary school instead of to the parochial Catholic one.

At that time, government schools were still few and far between in Italy. The choices for parents in Siena were limited to private schools -- the Catholic ones or one run by the Waldensian church a denomination formed about 1200 in northern Italy and which for more than over a century has had links with American Presbyterianism. In the late 1890s, the Waldensians were operating 40 elementary schools in Italy. One of those happened to be in Siena.

To be sent to a Protestant private school was startling for Alfredo. He had always thought of himself as a Catholic. He asked his mother why she was sending him to the Protestant school. "It's cheaper, son," she replied.

In the Waldensian school, Alfredo was treated differently from what he had experienced in his previous encounter with a church. In his eyes at least, the atmosphere in the Protestant school was very different from that in the Roman Catholic environment. He described the Protestant teachers as kind. He had the feeling that they loved him even in his most difficult moments.

Even though liberalism and formalism had already begun coloring the Waldensian church, the Siena congregation had their pastor teach a weekly gospel lesson to the children in their elementary school. The pastor proclaimed that our salvation was made possible when the Son of God gave himself for the sins of a lost world, including a mischievous little Alfredo who didn't always seem to be listening.

Alfredo Del Rosso also began to attend Sunday school at the Waldensian church with about 100 other children ranging from ages five to fifteen. There people talked about a living Christ, a Christ who was more than a painting or a picture on a card carried as a good-luck charm. At a Christmas program, Alfredo Del Rosso received his first Bible. To him, that was a real treasure. He took the Bible home and began to read it to his family.

However, it wasn't until Alfredo Del Rosso was in his teenage years that he became a born-again believer. By that time he had finished all five years of the Waldensian school and had begun working and studying at night for his high school diploma. He described his conversion, "On Easter Day of 1907, at the age of seventeen, I accepted Jesus as my personal Savior . . . My sins were pardoned; I received Jesus into my heart. I was regenerated; and I began a new life, not merely a new religion. . . Without regrets, I left the Catholic church."

Present in the church service that Easter Sunday was Carlo Padeletti, Alfredo's Sunday school teacher. Dr. Padeletti was a well-to-do physician whose ancestry could be traced back to Melancthon -- one of Martin Luther's right-hand men during Reformation days. Little did Dr. Padeletti guess that morning that in twenty years this short little teenager would become his spiritual counselor and would eventually even conduct his funeral. For teenaged Alfredo Del Rosso, that Easter Sunday conversion experience was more than a passing emotional crisis. He had really committed his life forever to the Lord. From that moment forward, said his nephew Raffaello, "He knew where he was going. He was not like the rest of us Italians."

That same fall, a church merger took place in Chicago, Illinois, between the Eastern and Western roots of the Church of the Nazarene. In that October 1907 merger, a missionary-minded eastern U.S. holiness movement with leaders including H.F. Reynolds and Susan Fitkin fused with the Los Angeles-born Church of the Nazarene. As that was happening in the U.S., a new babe in Christ in historic Siena, Italy, was beginning a spiritual pilgrimage toward the abundant life in the Spirit. These two events were key steps in a string of events that would eventually bring a strong holiness witness to Italy.

Two years later, in 1909, nineteen-year-old Alfredo began his military service -- a career which would total 12 years of active duty in the two World Wars. When a recruitment inducement was offered that enabled soldiers to be stationed in their hometowns, Alfredo Del Rosso enlisted a year earlier than what was normal for Italian young men to do their compulsory military service. His life in the church had come to be so important to him that he did not want to be sent away from home. While in the army, Alfredo began witnessing to fellow soldiers of his faith in Christ. As he shared his faith and explained the scriptures Alfredo Del Rosso discovered a profound sense of satisfaction. He didn't yet fully realize it, but the Lord was already equipping him for a lifetime of a ministry of the Word.

Toward the end of Alfredo's three years of compulsory military service, Italy, with dreams of re-establishing the Roman Empire, invaded Libya in North Africa. This invasion in October of 1911 was the first step toward realizing an expansionist dream of having an Italian colonial empire. The taking of Libya was justified, the Italian government told its people, to counterack the "hemorrhage" of emigration to the U.S. and other affluent countries.

While many of Alfredo's soldier friends were shipped off to Libya to fight and die against the Turks, Corporal First Class Del Rosso's assignment took him only as far as Rome where he was given a responsibility in railway transportation. His duties involved a lot of train riding, so he had plenty of time for spiritual meditation and even writing. It was during this period that Alfredo Del Rosso finally settled on the ministry as God's will for his life. His call had not come through some miraculous event or vision. Instead, it came as a growing conviction and certainty that all signs pointed in the direction of full-time Christian service.

So, while in Rome, he sought out the moderator of the Waldensian church to talk about preparation. He was interested in attending the Waldensian Theological School located in Florence, about 60 miles north of his hometown. Normal entrance requirements included a high school diploma and Alfredo did not have one. However, the Waldensian leader agreed to intervene for him and an exception was made in Del Rosso's case. Going to the ministerial training school in Florence would be a pivotal move for Del Rosso. It would open for him the opportunity to hear a clear witness to second-blessing holiness and also to learn English, something that would be the avenue through which he eventually met some Nazarenes.

After Alfredo's military duty was over, he moved to Florence -- the birthplace of the Renaissance, home of Savanarola, Dante, Machiavelli, and Michelangelo. The Waldensian school was located on the southern side of the Arno River. It was in an old mansion constructed in the 1600s for a family named Del Rosso. The school was located about three blocks from the inn where Martin Luther stayed on his way to visit Rome in 1510.

While Del Rosso was there in that two-year Bible school course, one of his most noted professors was Giovanni Luzzi. At that time Dr. Luzzi was in the middle of a monumental task he had begun in 1906: a complete revision of the Bible in the Italian language. Completed in 1924, that version achieved the kind of universal acceptance among Italian evangelicals that the King James Version had among the English-speaking world for so long.

"During my stage in the theological college," said Del Rosso, "I was praying to be a good servant of Christ, able to live a real and consistent Christian life. For a long time, almost seven years, I had sought an experience beyond salvation. My professors advised me to study English, French, and German to deepen my theological experience. But books did not give me what I sought . . . My heart desired something more . . . And no one had yet told me of the possibility and the necessity of a complete purging of the heart, of a complete sanctification of life."

It took a husband and wife team who had experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit in Switzerland to point Del Rosso to the heart purity, cleansing, and empowerment for which he hungered. This young couple, the Coppinis, were custodians of the Baptist Church building which was a former theater building just across the Arno River from the Waldensian school. In August of 1914 Del Rosso had gone with some other students to a series of special services in the Baptist church. There Del Rosso heard this young Florentine with his Swiss wife testifying about something he didn't have.

"I wanted to say it wasn't true," he says of their testimony to second-blessing holiness, "because all I had heard in sermons and prayers was that we were poor sinners." Sensing his interest, the Coppinis invited him over to their home after the service and there they stayed for hours (even through a mealtime) poring over passage after passage in the Word of God. In the biblical model, the Coppinis were Alfredo Del Rosso's Aquila and Priscilla and he was their Apollo.

Del Rosso recounted what happened after he went home that evening:

"I went alone to my bedroom of the Bible School -- a little room with a bookcase, a small bed, and a table. I started to pray with the Bible in my hands and I had not remained long in prayer when the light of the Holy Spirit showed me that the purpose of the work of Christ was to save and to wholly sanctify souls . . . and that my soul could be sanctified fully in that moment by faith. I confessed my need and asked God to completely purify my heart. I renounced with joy the world and its pleasures to accept a pure heart, a heart that was holy, full of the Holy Spirit of Christ. I received that which I asked of God by faith, immediately, fully. The Lord worked in my life the greatest miracle, that of full salvation. He sanctified me, taking all of me for Himself. The joy in my heart and life was great and Florence itself even seemed like a new city."

Something really did happen that night to a young theological student. Young Del Rosso laid down his pack of cigarettes, never to pick them up again. He obtained a couple of books on holiness -- one by Commissioner Samuel Logan Brengle of the Salvation Army and the other by William Booth, the Salvation Army's founder. In those two books, he found a clear, lucid, biblical explanation of the experience he had had in his room on Serragli Street. These two books, together with the Bible, were to be the only books on holiness that Del Rosso would have for the next 30 years.

"Then I met the Nazarenes," he later joked, "and they really loaded me down with stuff."

That heart-changing experience came to Del Rosso in August of 1914. Though he didn't know it at the time, the rapidly growing young Church of the Nazarene in the U.S. was already eyeing Europe. In the spring of that same year, Nazarene General Superintendent Edward F. Walker had been in Scotland exploring the possibilities of a Nazarene merger with George Sharpe's The Pentecostal Church of Scotland. In September, Superintendent H. F. Reynolds visited the British Isles. It was agreed that a merger would be finalized at the Nazarene General Assembly in the United States the following year. Historian Timothy Smith makes an interesting observation about one important result of this union between the American Church of the Nazarene and the Pentecostal Church of Scotland. Smith wrote: "In this merger was conceived the vision of an international holiness communion."

It would be another 30 years before that vision would be realized in a way that included Italy. Still, it is interesting -- and perhaps even significant -- that Del Rosso was saved in the same year that mergers began in the U.S. to create the Church of the Nazarene and then he was sanctified in the same year that an across-the-Atlantic merger created "the vision of an international holiness communion."

At almost the same time, a young teenage girl in the Baptist youth group was sanctified wholly. Born into a Florence Roman Catholic family in 1868, Niny Batacchi was drawn into the Florence Waldensian church through a Christmas program when she was eight years old. A little while later, Niny began attending the Baptist Church. In 1913 at the age of 16, she was converted. The next year, 1914, was also a crucial year for Niny, was sanctified under the influence of the Coppinis. Here's her story:

"We had been praying about two hours -- a group of the young people of the Baptist church, the pastor and his wife, and two students from the Waldensian Theological Seminary, one of them my future husband. I was the only girl. How could I forget that evening, that hour, that instant in which God spoke to my heart in a very special way? I could see all the ugliness of my heart . . . Then I heard a voice insistently saying, 'Behold, I have touched you; your iniquity is taken away and your sin is purged.'"

After his own sanctification experience, Alfredo returned to the Bible School and began to testify to it to his professors and to the other students. Their reaction was that Alfredo Del Rosso had really gone off the deep end this time. After all, he'd always been a little eccentric. This "Pentecostalism" as they termed it, however, seemed a bit too much. There was even some talk by faculty members of not allowing Alfredo Del Rosso to get his degree. Alfredo told them, "Well, I'm not certain what kind of label you want to pin on me. But if what I have is Pentecostalism, then I suppose I must be a Pentecostal."

What had historically been a fairly neutral word -- Pentecostal -- was rapidly being associated exclusively with people who promoted speaking in tongues (glossolalia or ecstatic utterances) as "evidence" of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. In fact, at that moment in the U.S., talk was underway in the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene to drop the adjective "Pentecostal" because of some misunderstandings (it had been added at the union in 1907 and would be dropped by General Assembly action in 1919).

Del Rosso's life-long study of and love for the learning of languages began here at the Waldensian school. Besides English, French, and German, he was required to learn some Greek and Hebrew as part of the two-year course at the school. As the years passed, Del Rosso would also take up Latin, Arabic, Spanish, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Croatian, and even Esperanto (which was an attempt to create a "universal language"). Because of his language interest and ability, Del Rosso would eventually become a fluent preacher and interpreter in four languages: Italian, English, French, and German.

The Waldensian school gave Del Rosso an introduction to the secretarial skills of typing and shorthand and some elementary principles of music. A talent for music inherited from his father would enable him to play the mandolin, the guitar, the violin, piano, organ, and the accordion. This musical ability would later be useful more than 30 years later in developing a distinctive hymnology for the infant Nazarene work in Italy.

After finishing his work at the Bible school in 1914 (the faculty did relent and granted him a degree), Del Rosso was appointed pastor of the Waldensian congregation at Follonica, a town on Italy's western coast south of Pisa. He had already done some supply preaching at Follonica, but he did not get to actually assume the position of pastor of the congregation. Initial fighting in what eventually would be called the First World War began in Europe in July of 1914. During the first month of hostilities, Italy declared itself neutral. As fighting intensified to its north, the Italian government ordered a precautionary mobilization. Del Rosso was recalled into active duty.

After his initial call-up back to military duty, Del Rosso was granted leave and sent home to await further developments. He couldn't accept any kind of permanent assignment such as pastoring a church, but through his Waldensian contacts, he got himself accepted as a book and Bible salesman by the British and Foreign Bible Society. While waiting to see what would happen with the war, he began to travel on bicycle throughout central Italy selling Bibles and religious books in the public squares.

This work in the provinces or regions of Lazio (where Rome is located) and Tuscany (where Florence, Pisa, and Siena are located) was not without opposition. Protestants were a tiny minority in Italy and they would often encounter open antagonism by the Roman Catholic majority.

Del Rosso recounted one harrowing incident: "I remember speaking in the piazza of the village of Capranica (north of Rome), preaching to about 200 women. They listened attentively as I explained several Scripture passages. I even saw some of them drying tears in their eyes. They bought portions of the Scriptures, promising to read them to their menfolks when they returned from work in the fields. But just then the Catholic priest arrived and began to circulate the word, 'He's a Protestant. Throw him out."

"He incited the women, who turned on me and began to threaten me. Seeing it was impossible to continue selling books and Bibles, I picked up everything and headed for the hotel. But I was followed by the infuriated mob stirred up by that fanatic priest. We passed a fruit stand and they picked up all kinds of fruit and vegetables and began to throw them at me. I made it to the hotel on the edge of town but the crowd surrounded that little building. In my second-story room, I went to my knees and began to pray and suddenly everything grew quiet outside. I peeked out the window . . . and the street was deserted. God had saved my life by an evident miracle. For at that very moment, some carloads of military recruits sent home on leave had arrived and the people left me to celebrate."

That evening, Del Rosso slipped out of the hotel and walked unmolested to the train station two miles away to return to Siena.

In time, some influential Italians began to think that their country's position of neutrality in the spreading war wasn't the most profitable one for Italy's long-term interests. They imagined the prestige and additional territory that a victorious war could bring to their newly unified country. So, in April of 1915, without consulting Parliament or public opinion (both of which clearly favored neutrality) Italian Premier Antonio Salandro concluded the secret Treaty of London. He thus committed Italy to fight on the side of England and France against its former friends, Germany and Austria. Three weeks after Germany moved against the Russians, Italy entered the First World War as one of the Allied Powers. By May 23, a Bible-selling colporteur in central Italy had become a corporal in the 87th Italian regiment on the Austrian-Hungarian front.

The main contribution of Italy to the war effort was to keep a significant part of the German armies tied down in the mountainous border areas of Italy and Austria. The fighting was bitter. Lots of people -- combatants and civilians -- were killed and buildings and railroads and bridges were destroyed. For almost 39 consecutive months Del Rosso would be on that battlefront. Due both to his native abilities and to the high mortality rate among the soldiers, Del Rosso would be rapidly promoted. In 1916 he was made an officer's cadet. A month later he was promoted to sub-lieutenant. In October of that year he was involved in a battle in which two-thirds of his fellow Italian soldiers were killed. Assigned to the Twenty-Second regiment, nine months later he found himself promoted to full lieutenant.

During those long months of heavy bombardment Del Rosso maintained an unswerving belief that the Lord who had called him to the ministry would bring him safely home. He was wounded twice -- once in the head by an exploding hand grenade and then later in his right hand by a rocket flare. An epidemic of cholera broke out and his battalion had to be quarantined for a month. "I saw officers and men die in my section and in my dormitory," he said, "but the Lord miraculously delivered me from that contagious disease." As a small contribution to the ongoing work of God's Kingdom while he was at the battlefront, he sent his paycheck to the Coppini family for them to use in the spreading of the gospel.

On April 16, 1917, the American Congress declared war on Germany, and before the signing of the armistice a year and a half later, two million U.S. troops arrived on the front in France. It would be through another invasion of American soldiers that Del Rosso would make contact with the Church of the Nazarene. But the unfolding of that story would have to wait for another World War in which the USA invaded Italym which was then fighting as an ally of Germany rather than its adversary.

At one point during his service on the Austrian front Del Rosso was suspected of espionage. His commanding general had received a disturbing report about Del Rosso's correspondence with persons in a foreign country. An over-zealous Catholic chaplain had noticed strange, almost code-type words such as "Maranatha" and "Hallelujah" on Del Rosso's postcards addressed to a Coppini family who were at that point living in Switzerland. Disturbed by what might be secret communications going to the enemy, the chaplain reported his suspicions to the general. Del Rosso was called in.

Startled at the accusation of treason, then amused by it, Del Rosso explained to the general what the words meant and followed up with his personal testimony. The general rose, shook Del Rosso's hand, and told him to feel free not only to write the words on postcards but also to share that same testimony with the officers and men in the brigade.

In 1918, with the war drawing to a close, Del Rosso was promoted to captain. The promotion also brought a welcome change of assignment away from the front. He was placed in charge of a company of Yugoslav prisoners some distance from the front. While there, during one of his brief leaves, he married 20-year-old Niny Batacchi, that young Baptist girl from Florence for whom he had prayed in 1914. Niny's activism in the Baptist church had brought opposition and ridicule from her family, but Niny had remained true to the faith. While she and Alfredo were two different personalities, they did complement each other. That same year Alfredo's mother died.

In the autumnm the Italians defeated the Hapsburg army at Vittorio Veneto, and soon after came the November 11 armistice. During those three years of what one Italian writer has called "the suicide of Europe," Del Rosso received two medals: the War Cross and the Eulogy of the King. With the ending of the war, Del Rosso was placed on permanent reserve status where he remained until recalled in 1941 at the start of World War II.

Del Rosso began looking for a way to enter the active ministry. The Waldensians, already on the decline, were in dire financial straits. Thus, Del Rosso's own church did not have an opening for a young pastor like him. The Baptists invited the newlywed couple to cast their lot with them.

Del Rosso says, "The president of the union asked me if I would have any difficulty in accepting a position as pastor of one of their churches in Rome. I responded that I had been called to preach the Word of the Lord. Because the church promised me the freedom to freely preach full salvation, I accepted the position." But it would soon become apparent that the Scottish Baptist mission wasn't fully aware of all that Del Rosso meant when he requested "freedom to freely preach full salvation."

Niny and Alfredo Del Rosso moved to Rome where Alfredo was ordained to the ministry by a local Baptist church. Almost immediately, his preaching of full salvation and the holy life began to cause some problems in his new charge. He had an argument with the Baptist union president's wife in which she insisted that we can be saved from "our sins, but not from our sin." Del Rosso vehemently disagreed. Since the president himself smoked, it wasn't long before the two men had some lively disagreements over Del Rosso's denunciation of what he considered worldly habits and addictions.

Baptist officials got Del Rosso to agree on a transfer to another church. They thought that perhaps the church he had come to was just too old and had too many long-established traditions for its pillar families to respond to his kind of preaching. So Baptist leaders asked Del Rosso to move to a church in a poorer area of the city across the Tiber near the Vatican. That crowded area of Rome is known as Trastevere or "across the Tiber". The people who live there, they say, are the "romanest" of the Romans.

But even there in the shadow of St. Peter's basilica, the heat generated by this young fireball of a preacher was still too much for Baptist leadership. And so in 1921, Alfredo Del Rosso was transferred with his wife and two-year-old son to the seacoast town of Civitavecchia, about 60 miles west of Rome.

In the early 1920s Italy was experiencing social and political upheaval. The Italian communist party was born in the northern part of Italy in the same year Del Rosso moved to Civitavecchia. The birth of that new movement had been accompanied by bloody conflicts between workers and the police. The Fascist movement headed by Mussolini transformed itself into a political party and, in 1922, managed to gain control of the government. It was in the midst of all that social upheaval that revival broke out in the Civitavecchia congregation under Del Rosso's leadership. In the five years. the Del Rossos were in Civitavecchia, they baptized over 100 persons, and the congregation built a nice parsonage to replace the one-room house the Del Rossos had moved into on their arrival in 1921.

In 1924 Pio Boccini, a Baptist from Rome who worked for the railroad, was intrigued by what he had heard about Del Rosso and his ministry in Civitavecchia. So, Pio Boccini made a special trip to see Del Rosso. Boccini was so impressed that he returned in 1925 to be present at the inauguration of the new Civitavecchia church building. A friendship began to develop between the two men that would endure until Pio's death in Rome in 1975.

Even in Civitavecchia, Del Rosso's emphasis on holy living disturbed many of the old-timers in the church. Revival? Yes! New converts? Yes, but holy living? Oh, no. Del Rosso insisted, for instance, that marriage celebrations not end up in drunken dances. And the deacons felt that no pastor had a right to insist on that. After all, aren't we living by faith alone and not by works?

By 1926, some of the old-timers in the local church had taken all they could. They called the Baptist union headquarters asking for a doctrinal investigation of their pastor. They couldn't very well throw him out on the grounds that he was against smoking, drinking, and dancing although that was really what was stirring up the controversy. The only legitimate grounds on which to legitimately attack Del Rosso were doctrinal. His preaching of the baptism of the Holy Spirit as an action subsequent to regeneration was thought by some of the Baptist church members to be a doctrine of the Pentecostal Assembly of God denomination which had entered Rome and southern Italy in 1908.

Out to Civitavecchia went some leading Baptist clergymen. It wasn't a time for tolerance outside of the church. On the political scene, all political parties other than the Fascist one had been suppressed. Newspapers that refused to toe the party line were being closed down. The culture of intolerance made it a bad time for anyone who held divergent opinions from the reigning authority, be that authority religious or political.

After talking to Del Rosso and members of his church, the Baptist leaders decided that Del Rosso did believe and preach a great deal more than a good spiritual descendant of John Calvin should believe and preach. They did admit that he had been used of the Holy Spirit to bring revival to all the Baptist churches he had pastored. However, feeling that he'd be more at home in some Pentecostal church (and they'd certainly be more comfortable with him there), they counseled him to resign and fulfill his call elsewhere.

At that point, neither Del Rosso nor the Baptist leaders knew anything about the fairly new and now 63,000-member-strong Church of the Nazarene that had emerged in the U.S.A. So, they couldn't recommend that Del Rosso check out the Nazarenes. It might not have mattered even if they had. In 1926, the foreign missionary work of the Church of the Nazarene was in crisis. The denomination's financial resources had been badly managed. While some new countries were entered at the beginning of 1926, by the end of that year, the operating budget for missions had to be slashed by one-third. Twenty-nine missionaries were recalled from the field (out of a total staff of about 90).

So, had contact even been made at this point between Del Rosso and the Nazarenes, no financial help could have come to support even this one "national pastor." Certainly, no Nazarene missionaries would have been sent to Italy for quite some time. InGod's providence, contact between this young holiness preacher and the people called Nazarenes had to wait for a more propitious time. . . . [ continue reading ]

  Page:   ←Prev  |    1: Introduction  |   2: If this  be Pentecostalism  |    3: Out under the stars   |    4: The Nazarenes have landed and  the situation is well in hand  |    5: Superintendent Del Rosso, an Italian captivated by a vision   |,   6: Retirement? Not quite  |    7: Retirement? Finally   |    Next→ 

Out under the stars

arrow pointing rightOne night Del Rosso and his wife were wrestling with the decision. Suddenly, their seven-year-old son Paolo sat up in his bed in the corner of the room. "Pick up the book," he said pointing to a Bible, "and read page 242." Then he lay back down fast asleep. . . . [ more ]

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)

    -- Howard Culbertson,

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