Italy got its name from Romans that called it “Italia,” (“land of oxen,” or “grazing land”). Many empires, governments and world leaders have called it home. Most notably, the Roman Empire spanned 600 years from 200 BC to the 400s AD. But Italy was splintered into dozens of city-states during Medieval and Renaissance times. It was largely conquered by Napoleon in the 1800s. In the 1930s, Benito Mussolini became dictator in Italy and ruled until 1943. In 1946, the Italian people voted to abolish monarchial rule and set up a republican form of government. Today, Italy is one of Europe’s wealthiest countries, even though most of its southern provinces remain poor. The Vatican City, located in Rome and the center of the Roman Catholic Church, is separate from the rest of the country, but remains an influential force.
The pentecostal movement in modern Italy began in 1908, when Italian immigrants to America, came back to Italy to share the experience of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, after the outpouring in Azuza Street in 1907. The movement grew rapidly with preaching, confirmed by signs and wonders. So much so, that the government outlawed pentecostal worship and closed all pentecostal churches in Italy on April 9, 1935. This fascist law continued to persecute the pentecostal church until May 12,1959, when the law was rescinded.
Today there is a powerful move of the Spirit throughout Italy. Most of the churches that are experiencing great growth and revival are pastored by young men under the age of 40. For example, one church, Lodi, near Milano, is pastored by a young man 36 years old. He was a Catholic priest, until he saw both of his sick parents healed of terminal illnesses and saved in an Assemblies of God church. Today, he and his Assemblies of God church of Lodi have planted 12 other churches that are growing rapidly.
About three quarters of Italians claim to be Roman Catholic, but only about 12 percent are faithful churchgoers. Today, 500,000 Muslims, 300,000 evangelicals, 150,000 Jews, and many members of cults and other religious groups live in Italy. During the 20th century, Pentecostal churches suffered severe persecution, especially under Mussolini. Pentecostal believers were officially outlawed. But persecution only strengthened the church. Every pastor that was exiled to another town started another church there!
The Movement Today
Counting the Italian AG plus the ethnic AG that have been incorporated into the Assemblies of God in Italy (Assemblee di Dio in Italia, ADI), there are 1,300 churches. There are about 550 pastors. With the revival among the Italian pentecostal churches, plus immigration from eastern Europe, Africa and Asia, the evangelical population has swelled to over 500,000 believers in Italy.
Additional Facts About Italy
Area: 116,347 square miles
Population: 60.8 million
Government: Parliamentary Constitutional Republic
Official Language: Italian
Agriculture: Grapes, wheat, beef cattle, hogs, olives, corn, oranges, and tomatoes
Industry: Clothing and shoes, food and beverages, vehicles, petroleum products, machinery, and chemicals
Mining: Natural gas, granite, and marble