Monday, November 30, 2009

International Assemblies in Rome

The following info is on pgs 212-216 of the 1982 Yearbook ... and below that I posted some links with videoclips from recent International Conventions in Rome

(International Assembly held in Rome, in 1955, photo on pg 223)

Convention In Rome!
A convention in Rome was something the brothers had ardently desired to see for many years. Even the brothers tried before the Special Tribunal had secretly wondered: “Who knows if one day we shall have an assembly in Rome and be able to meet together freely in this very city where we are now imprisoned?”
These expectations were fulfilled in December 1951 when a national convention was held on the premises of the Rome Trades Fair. Its theme, “Pure Worship,” was a significant contrast with the religion traditionally flourishing in that historic city. Since brothers from 14 other European nations were present, the convention took on an international character. The 1953 Yearbook (English ed.) published the following report:
“The Rome convention was the unforgettable event of the year. When it was announced that the president of the Society would preside at the assembly the Italian brothers determined to make great sacrifices to get there. The poverty in Italy makes it difficult for one to leave the country for an international convention. So, when Brother Knorr suggested that neighboring countries be invited to attend the Rome assembly, the response was excellent. There were about 700 or 800 delegates from England, Denmark, France, Belgium, Switzerland, and many other European countries. This made the Rome assembly an international convention that the Italian brothers will never forget. It was their first taste of the love and unity that exists among brothers who are of different nationalities and races. Now we can look forward to similarly blessed gatherings of Jehovah’s people in Italy as well as in other lands, and we know that greater efforts will be made by our brothers to attend future assemblies.”

Triumphant Kingdom Assembly
An outstanding event of the year 1955 was the Triumphant Kingdom Assembly. (shown in the photo above) Among the 4,351 in attendance at this international convention were delegates from 32 nations, and 378 were baptized. This meant that almost 10 percent of those present symbolized their dedication by water baptism, a truly remarkable figure. Five special trains arrived from Paris full of brothers, most of whom were from the United States. Their arrival caused quite a stir because it was the first time Rome had seen such a large group of American tourists arrive all at once.
It had not been easy to get the Palazzo dei Congressi for our convention. At that time it was one of the best convention halls in Europe, completely overlaid in white marble and surrounded by green parks for the use of assembly delegates. Our first application had been accepted, and everything seemed to be going well, when, 10 days before the convention was due to begin, we were told that permission to use the hall had been withdrawn. Officially we were told that it was needed for another engagement. Finally, two days before the deadline, when it seemed the convention could no longer be held in Rome, the management informed us we could hold our congress after all.

What was behind these obscure maneuvers? The answer is to be found in an article entitled “The Tower of Babel—A Crow in Campidoglio,” published by the newspaper Meridiano d’Italia of October 30, 1955, which declared:
“It seems that Mr. Cornacchiola, [his name literally means ‘little crow’] Christian Democrat City of Rome Councillor, is even more pro-Vatican than Mr. Rebecchini [then mayor of Rome], who has a position, be it only an honorary one, in Vatican City.
“In fact, Mr. Cornacchiola—yes, that is his name, Cornacchiola—questioned the Mayor of Rome to find out ‘why premises at EUR [Esposizione Universale Roma] were to be used by a Protestant sect “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” for their assembly.’ On behalf of the people of Rome, councillor Cornacchiola said he wished, ‘to protest about this and reprimand those responsible for the whole affair. Rome, as residence of the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, cannot tolerate similar gatherings that offend the residence of the Pope.’”
“Now,” the newspaper continues, “apart from the fact that the permission in question has been obtained from the Prefettura (in the person of the minister, Mr. Tambroni, an important member of Azione Cattolica [Catholic Action]), it should be kept in mind that Rome is the residence of the Head of State of the Italian Republic, while the Vicar of Christ resides in Vatican City.
“Among his other functions, President Gronchi has the task of safeguarding the Constitution of the Italian Republic, which states, in article 8, that ‘all creeds have equal right to be freely exercised and to organize themselves according to their individual statutes.’
“If Mr. Cornacchiola takes exception to the Italian Constitution he ought to begin by resigning from his position on the Rome City Council.”
The press also commented favorably on the behavior of the Witnesses. Il Giornale d’Italia of Sunday, August 7, 1955, had this to say:
“An impartial observer will be impressed by three things in particular: first, the exemplary behavior of those present, as they follow what is being said in respectful silence and with evident spiritual affinity; second, the fact that so many races can be gathered together in the name of a religion that seemingly inspires their thoughts and actions with as much serenity as moral rectitude; third, the exceptional number of children from one to thirteen years of age—black, white or yellow, but all strangely well behaved or even busy consulting verses in the Holy Bible as they follow the words of their preacher.”

New publication releases were greeted with great enthusiasm, and the news that Awake! magazine would be published in Italian beginning with the issue of August 8, 1955, was particularly thrilling. Literature released in Italian included the book “New Heavens and a New Earth” and the booklets Basis for Belief in a New World, World Conquest Soon—by God’s Kingdom and “This Good News of the Kingdom.”

*After reading about all the years of struggling and hardships our brothers & sisters had to endure in order to gain religious freedom in Italy, it's awesome to watch these video clips from some recent International Conventions there. Especially when you compare the growth from back then to now.
(I'm not sure what year this was, but I like how this video really includes everyone....Not just foreign delegates from other countries, but also shows the sign language interpretation for the deaf delegates, and even shows a disabled brother getting baptized as well as elderly ones)

Bagpipes at the 2009 International Convention in Rome
And of course I like this video because it has a bagpiper...I love bagpipes! =)

daily text 11/30

Monday, November 30th, 2009
"Train up a boy according to the way for him; even when he grows old he will not turn aside from it." (Proverbs 22:6)


Scriptural instruction combined with the voice of experience and an example of endurance can make a real difference in determining whether a young person will grow up with solid faith. Older ones should never underestimate the powerful force for good that they can be to their family. Older ones can also be a good influence on fellow believers. In his old age, Jacob’s son Joseph performed a simple act of faith that had a profound effect on millions of true worshippers who lived after him. He was 110 when “he gave a command concerning his bones,” namely, that when the Israelites finally left Egypt, they were to take his bones with them. (Hebrews 11:22; Genesis 50:25) That command served as an added ray of hope for Israel during the many years of hard slavery that followed Joseph’s death, providing assurance that their deliverance would come.
(Watchtower issue: 6/1/07, 2:9, 10)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Clergy Opposition Intensifies in Italy

the following experiences, on pgs 198-208 of the 1982 Yearbook, totally remind me of today's text discussion. I shouldn't laugh, but some of the stuff that took place in the early years between JW's and the clergy is really funny in retrospect. It reminds me of the Old West. lol.


(First district convention in Italy, held in Milan, October 27th-29th, 1950. Illustration on pg 209)

The Clergy Stir Up More Trouble
The freedom now enjoyed in Italy goes back to the important date of December 27, 1947, when the Constitution of the Italian Republic went into force. The Constitution recognized basic rights directly pertinent to our work of announcing Jehovah’s kingdom and which had been ruthlessly trampled underfoot during the dictatorship.
In spite of the new Constitution, however, difficulties were not yet over for Jehovah’s Witnesses. Although the Catholic hierarchy no longer had a dictatorship to lean upon, it could still boast powerful connections with the most important political party in the country. The clergy did their best to suffocate Kingdom interests by appealing to that body of Fascist law that was contrary to the Constitution and that had not yet been abolished.


Sometimes priests stirred up mobs of fanatics against the brothers while they were at meetings or in the field ministry. For example, in an article entitled “A Priest Stirs Up a Mob of Women and Children Against ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ at Molfetta,” the daily newspaper L’Unità of September 22, 1954, said:
“The religious fanaticism stirred up by a priest [name and address given] against honest citizens, whose only fault is that of professing a different religion from that of the above-named cleric, is of a particularly serious nature . . .
“A few days ago the hardworking and orderly town of Molfetta witnessed a most disgusting scene of religious persecution, worthy of the most obscure period of the Inquisition. About ten of the townspeople were met together as usual at No. 7 Via Zuppetta when the priest [name given] came along chanting hymns and followed by a mob of women, children and youths. He then gave the signal to start a disorderly uproar that went on for over two hours. The demonstration included a constant hail of stones against the doors and windows of the meeting place, accompanied by rowdiness and the shouting of threats and abuse from the crowd. . . .


“Obliged to come out into the open to avoid the worst, these people were subjected to ridicule, insults and threats and then surrounded by the unruly women and children. They were punched and hit by stones before they managed to reach the police station, not only to obtain protection but also to ask that the instigators of this unlawful aggression be punished. However, the official in charge, obviously sympathizing with the other side, had no intention of intervening to guarantee respect for the law and constitutional rights. So instigators and perpetrators went unpunished with the tacit approval of those whose duty it should be to safeguard the basic rights of the individual and personal safety. In this particular case these rights were trampled underfoot and violated in the most vile and degrading manner.”

The same newspaper, in its issue of January 3, 1959, published an article entitled “Outbreak of Religious Intolerance Against ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ at Lapio.” What had happened this time? On December 29, 1958, two publishers, Antonio Puglielli and Francesco Vitelli, were preaching the “good news” at Lapio, a small town in the province of Avellino. At about eleven o’clock in the morning they were confronted by a mob of youths and children led by the local Catholic priest who began shouting, “Go away!” and then, “You are ignorant good-for-nothing peddlers of lies! You don’t understand the Bible. You just ruin the flock.”
Since the mob evidently meant business, the two brothers took refuge in the town hall, and the priest followed them up the stairs to the upper floor where the mayor intervened to protect them. What about the other brothers preaching in the town? The two brothers declared: “Accompanied by municipal guards we went to the part of the town where the others were working. We found them surrounded by a crowd led by a threatening priest and it was only with some difficulty that we were able to free them and get them back to the bus that was to take us away. Once we were on the bus the priest stood in front of it so that it could not leave and tried to incite the crowd to further violence. Fortunately the people did not obey anymore.”


These are just a few of the clergy-inspired incidents. For obvious reasons, the newspapers that denounced these acts were usually controlled by the political opposition, while those controlled by the Catholic majority usually passed them over without comment.


This persistent opposition by the Catholic Church is hardly surprising. Rather, it is consistent with the attitude she has generally maintained when dealing with other religions. A clear delineation of this policy is given by “Father” Cavalli in the Jesuit semimonthly, Civiltà Cattolica of March 27, 1948:
“The Catholic Church is convinced of her divine right, as the one true church, to claim freedom of action for herself alone, so that this privilege be reserved exclusively for truth and be denied to error. As for other religions, the Church will never take up the literal sword against them but she will make use of legitimate channels and worthy means to see that they are not allowed to spread their false doctrines. Consequently, in a predominantly Catholic state the Church will insist that erroneous beliefs be denied legal recognition and that, if certain religious minorities persist, they should be allowed a mere de facto existence and be denied the possibility of spreading their beliefs. In cases where existing circumstances render a stringent application of this principle impossible, either due to government hostility or the numerical consistency of dissident groups, the Church will try to obtain the greatest concessions for herself and will tolerate the lawful existence of other cults as a minor evil. In some countries, Catholics will themselves be forced to sustain the absolute right to freedom of religion and resign themselves to coexistence with other cults where they alone should have the right to thrive . . . ” (Italics ours)
In other words, the Catholic clergy clearly says to those like Jehovah’s Witnesses, ‘If we had our way we would get rid of you.’ But Jehovah has not permitted this opposition to prevail against the people who have ‘come to know his name.’—Psalm 91:14.


Efforts To Disturb Assemblies
The clergy did everything within its power to disturb our peaceful activity, adopting various means to interrupt our assemblies. For example, priests would infiltrate the audience with hecklers, usually young people. These would go inside and sit quietly among the delegates for a while, and then they would start to upset the meeting by shouting and creating a disturbance. At this point the police would take a hand, but, instead of removing those responsible for the trouble, they would often stop the assembly on the pretext that the meeting was “disturbing the peace.”


William Wengert recalls: “When we started an assembly we were never sure whether we would be able to finish it. There were so many interruptions and difficulties in those days!”
The circuit and district overseers who organized the assemblies found a simple and practical remedy. They would see to it that there was a very efficient group of strapping ushers and put plenty of them near the entrance. One traveling overseer relates: “The circuit assembly had just begun and clergy interference was expected. The district overseer had given instructions to the ushers on duty at the entrance to stop anyone they did not know and casually ask them a couple of questions, such as, ‘Where are you from?’ or, ‘Who is the overseer in your congregation?’ Those answering in a convincing way were allowed to enter.


“But what if a troublemaker managed to slip in among the audience? In this case the ‘flying squad,’ a group of very determined-looking ushers, came on the scene and they kindly invited opposers to be silent. If the disturbance continued the ‘squad’ would very discreetly lift the heckler out of his seat and ‘help’ him to leave the hall. Since the police did not sustain our right to hold meetings undisturbed, we had to resolve the problem ourselves.”

Let us now mention a few of the many incidents sparked off by the clergy. The first of these happened at a circuit assembly held at Sulmona, a small town in central Italy in a fertile valley of the Abruzzi region. On Sunday, September 26, 1948, there were about 2,000 persons present at the public talk—a tremendous crowd if we remember that there were only 472 publishers in the whole country at the time. What happened on this occasion? An extract from the 1950 Yearbook (English ed.) narrates:
“Sunday morning at 10:30 found more than 2,000 people swelling out the largest theater in the city, and the doors had to be closed minutes before the time set for the talk. Many had to be turned away, but not before having received a booklet; there simply was no more room left, even the aisles were occupied! Inside, an extremely attentive audience showed its appreciation and approval of truth by applauding several times during the lecture and upon its conclusion.
“However, before the meeting was closed, a young religionist who had been standing in the rear of the hall taking notes from two priests made his way to the platform, raised his hands and began shouting, demanding to be heard. The chairman calmly explained that questions of the public would be answered personally and privately after the close of the meeting. That this fanatic was bent on making trouble and using our public meeting to spread his religious propaganda was evident. No doubt he, like the clergy, was aware of the empty pews in the churches these days and was seeking other places to harangue the people. Goaded on by his sneaky, priestly advisors, he scrambled to the top of the platform as soon as the assembly was dismissed, waved his arms like a madman and yelled at the top of his lungs for attention. The two priests in the rear, ducking their heads down to hide their reversed collars, shouted and whistled in approval, hoping thus to arouse a wave of enthusiasm for their hireling. It did not work. The audience turned down his uninvited attempt to do religious proselyting. Instead of applauding and permitting him to speak, those in the audience drowned out his protesting voice with cries of: ‘Fascistone!’ [Fascist!] ‘Vergogna!’ [Shame on you!] ‘How much are they paying you to do this?’ Seeing things were not going so well, the would-be interloper soon leaped off the stage and quickly disappeared with his priestly companions. Then, orderly and quietly, the audience made its way out of the theater, accepting gladly the free booklet that was offered.”
The account ended by saying: “The tables had been turned on them and once more Jehovah gave the victory.”


First District Convention
Now let us describe another episode of religious intolerance. We were to hold the first district convention ever to take place in Italy, at the Teatro dell’Arte, Milan, from October 27 to 29, 1950. (shown in the illustration above) At the last minute the chief of police canceled our permit to hold the convention there. The two brothers in charge of convention organization were told that the measure had been taken to avoid the danger of reaction from Catholics who might be offended by a Protestant meeting! This was absurd! It was just an excuse to deprive honest citizens of their right to meet together peaceably.
Even though these and other arguments put forward by the brothers were obviously logical, the chief of police would not go back on his decision. When, as a last resort, the brothers threatened to inform the press of this abuse of authority, he did not know what to say and threw them out of his office. Coupling what had been said with other facts in our possession, we were sure that the clergy had had a hand in the matter. This time they had devised a different method, using their influence with the police force.


Brother George Fredianelli, the assistant overseer at that convention, recalls:
“This was the situation: there were barely 24 hours before the assembly was due to begin, brothers were arriving at Milan from all over Italy, and we couldn’t find another hall anywhere! What were we to do? We were very worried. But once again Jehovah intervened in our favor.


“The morning before the assembly, Brother Antonio Sideris, the assembly overseer, and I were out looking for another hall. As we were passing by a piece of ground surrounded by a fence, we suddenly had an idea, ‘Why not ask the proprietor if he would let us use it for three days?’ He rented us the land at a very reasonable price, and off we went to look for some large tents under which the assembly could be held. Finally we found a well-known tent factory willing to rent us marquees and even to help us put them up. They were pleased with the prospect of extra publicity.

“The next problem facing us was that of getting permission from the authorities all over again. Since there was little or no chance that it would be given in time, we decided to present them with an accomplished fact. There was no other way. We just couldn’t send all the brothers back home again. We put the marquees up and organized the various departments overnight before anyone noticed, and at nine o’clock in the morning the assembly punctually got off to a start.

“The police arrived soon afterward. They jumped out of their jeep armed to the teeth. What a glaring contrast they made! What a ridiculous situation it was! Armed policemen sent to control people peacefully sitting there singing religious hymns. Brother Sideris told them that if they interrupted the assembly, they would be sorry. We would report the fact to the local and international press to show that Italy’s new constitution was not being observed and that there was a return of the Fascist dictatorship. The intimidated policemen went away to ask for instructions from higher up and later returned to inform us that we could carry on with our assembly.”
About 800 were present at the public talk and 45 were baptized. Since the tents had been put up in an area where there were several factories, the brothers had the opportunity of giving a witness to many of the workmen who took advantage of their lunch break to see what was going on. What was it like sitting inside those marquees on the cold, damp October days? Fern Fraese recalls: “As we listened to the program we kept our coats on, and many of us were holding hot-water bottles to keep warm. Nevertheless, we were very happy and rejoiced to receive such good spiritual food.”

Clergy Intolerance Backfires
Another episode of clergy-inspired intolerance took place the last week in June 1951 with regard to a circuit assembly to be held at Cerignola. What happened on this occasion? The 1952 Yearbook report (English ed.) states:
“At noon two policemen came over to the hall to advise us that our private meetings there were being forbidden. Immediately we called on the local office of the commissario [police commissioner] to find out what this was all about. As we entered the police station, a young priest was leaving the place with a big smile on his face. Evidently he was quite joyful, and we soon learned that the police had given him reason to feel contented. The commissario himself made it very plain to us that our police permit was being canceled for reasons over which he had no control. The authorities gave as the ‘reason’, the unsafe condition of the hall, but no one was expected to believe that. After a somewhat heated discussion of the matter, we were advised to go to the capital of the province and talk to the provincial ‘boss’, the questore.


“A few hours later we were walking into the provincial police headquarters, and to our surprise we found there the same Catholic priest we had met in the commissario’s office, this time accompanied by an older and more important-looking priest. We found out later that the latter was the vicario of the city where we were holding our assembly. The priests were waiting to talk with the questore, but when his assistant, the chief of police, came in they asked to be shown into his office instead. A few minutes later the questore arrived . . . He clearly showed that his mind had already been made up for him before hearing what we had to say and . . . he started out by threatening us with arrest for having rented a hall that was, in his opinion, unfit for meetings. His tactics were to frighten us and make it seem as if we were the ones that had done wrong and hence deserving reproof. . . .
“We were determined not to give in to this arbitrary, fascist-like action of the police without a battle, and for more than one hour we stayed in the questore’s office and debated the legal aspect of our case.”
In spite of this, the questore did not change his decision. So what happened about the assembly?

The report continues:
“We went back and made arrangements to hold the assembly in two private homes, and by means of loud-speaking equipment we had the same program in both places at the same time. The intolerance of the clergy aroused the indignation of many honest persons, even though the priests tried to cover up by announcing in church the next morning that no one should attend the public meeting of Jehovah’s witnesses that day (when they knew all the time that it had been forbidden and therefore would not be held!). . . . But here again the priests were defeated, because Jehovah’s witnesses do not keep their mouths shut but continue to expose the hypocrisy and the erroneous teachings of the false religionists, resulting in more persons of good will getting their eyes opened.”

daily text 11/29

Sunday, November 29th, 2009
"If you have bitter jealousy and contentiousness in your hearts, do not be bragging and lying against the truth." (James 3:14)


James wrote very frankly about characteristics that are in direct conflict with godly wisdom. Jealousy and contentiousness are fleshly traits, not spiritual ones. Consider what occurs when fleshly thinking prevails. Six “Christian” groups control parts of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, supposedly built where Jesus was put to death and buried. Their relationship has been one of ongoing contention. In 2006, Time magazine told of an earlier situation when monks there “brawled for hours, . . . clubbing each other with giant candlestick holders.” So great is their distrust of one another that the key to the church is entrusted to a Muslim. Such extreme displays of contentiousness should certainly not be found in the true Christian congregation.
(Watchtower issue: 03/15/08, 4:11, 12)

*when this Watchtower article first came out last year, I remember that excerpt from Time magazine struck me so funny, that I had one of my 'cataplexy' fall-out-of-my-seat-laughing moments...and could not stop for like 5 minutes straight. Good thing I was at home when I first read it, and not at the Kingdom Hall. lol.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Post-War Assemblies & Circuit Work In Italy

(The following info is on pgs 179-190 of the 1982 Yearbook...We've really come a long way, from such small beginnings!)

(First circuit assembly in Italy, held in 1947 at Roseto degli Abruzzi; brothers met under a fig tree and a canopy of vines along a private road...illustration on pg 193)
Work Reorganized And Branch Office Opened
Toward the end of 1945, Brother N. H. Knorr, then the president of the Watch Tower Society, and his secretary M. G. Henschel made a visit to Europe. The Swiss branch invited Sister Pizzato to go to Berne to give Brother Knorr a report on the activity in Italy. With regard to that meeting Sister Pizzato writes:
"Brother Knorr realized the immediate necessity of having booklets printed in Italian so that the preaching work could be started up again..." Brother Umberto Vannozzi, a young man residing in Switzerland but with Italian nationality also, was present at that meeting. He was assigned for a time to visit small groups of brothers to strengthen and instruct them in Jehovah’s way.

At that time Cernobbio was a small town of about 3,000 inhabitants and hardly suitable as a center of operations in view of the hoped-for expansion. For this reason, in the spring of 1946 Brother Knorr instructed the brothers to find a place suitable to house a small Bethel family of six or seven persons. With the help of a brother from the Berne office, a six-room house was bought at 20 Via Vegezio in Milan, and we transferred the center of our newly established activity there. This took place in July 1946. That year saw an average of 95 Kingdom publishers, with a peak of 120 from 35 small congregations. This was the basis for our future expansion.

In October 1946, Brother George Fredianelli arrived from the United States. In 1943 he had graduated in the first class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead and had since served as a circuit overseer. He was now assigned to visit the brothers in our only existing circuit, which went from the Alps down to the island of Sicily.

In January 1947, two other missionaries, Joseph Romano and his wife Angela, arrived. Since Brother Romano had been appointed to be branch overseer, he immediately set to work in the new Bethel at Milan. A few months later, yet another couple of Gilead graduates were sent over. They were Carmelo and Constance Benanti. Then, on March 14, 1949, it was a bonanza when another 28 missionaries arrived in the country! They really were one of Jehovah’s provisions to start things rolling with a view to expansion. At first they were assigned to groups working in five cities: Milan, Genoa, Rome, Naples and Palermo.

In 1946, when things got off to a new start after the war, there were little more than 100 publishers scattered here and there throughout the country. They were out of contact with one another and the organization. No regular meetings were being held, although the publishers did their best to meet together anywhere they could, in private homes and even in cow stalls. They would read one publication or another, looking up the scriptures and commenting on them as well as they could. For the most part, the preaching work consisted of speaking to friends or relatives, and the theocratic structure of the Christian congregation was almost unknown.

First Postwar Assembly
After the opening of the branch office at Milan, Brother Knorr decided to pay us a visit to give added impetus to the newly organized activity. In connection with his visit, a one-day assembly was arranged. It was to be the first assembly of the postwar period. All the brothers and interested persons were looking forward to it and the meeting with Brothers Knorr and Henschel.
On May 16, 1947, they all arrived at Cinema Zara, where the assembly was to be held. At the morning and afternoon sessions 239 persons were present from various parts of Italy, even far-off Sicily, and the number of those then baptized was 31...It is surprising to note that this latter group included some of those sentenced by the Fascist Tribunal and who, because of their limited knowledge of Christian requirements, had yet to be baptized. (isn't that amazing? their faith was so firm that they were willing to endure prison sentences before they had even been baptized yet!) The public talk, held at 8:30 in the evening on the theme “The Joy of all the People,” climaxed the proceedings. Seven hundred were present.
The brothers had to make great sacrifices to go to that assembly, not only because they were so poor that traveling and overnight expenses seemed very high, but also because the railways were still disrupted by the aftermath of the war. Teresa Russo, an elderly sister from Cerignola, narrates: “We were so poor at that time we did not have the money to go to the assembly. Where were we to get it? I remember, as though it were yesterday, how we began to put our sugar aside instead of using it. Then, we would find a way of selling this reserve to pay for our train tickets and overnight expenses. We filled our cases with sugar and hung sacks of it around our waists, rather like hunters who carry their food in this way. We all looked very fat. Nevertheless, this is how seven of us were able to go to Milan and have the joyful experience of seeing so many brothers there.”
Some of those present still remember their feelings when they found themselves freely assembling with brothers they had previously met in prison or in exile. Aldo Fornerone, who was present at that assembly, says: "I shall never forget how moved I was to meet and embrace those dear brothers from central and southern Italy who had been in prison or in exile with me. Only Jehovah knows how grateful we were to be able to meet together in a country where freedom of worship had been reestablished..."
During the assembly Brother Knorr outlined a program for theocratic expansion in the country. From the month of June onward a monthly sheet of congregation instructions, called the Informant, was to be issued. Groups and congregations would be visited every six months by a circuit overseer, and circuit assemblies would also be held.

Circuit Activity Begins
There can be no doubt that the expansion of Kingdom interests was greatly encouraged by the activity of the traveling overseers who visited the congregations to upbuild the brothers, teaching them theocratic principles and training them in the preaching work. Do you remember Umberto Vannozzi who met Brother Knorr and Sister Maria Pizzato in 1945? (mentioned at the outset) During the 1930’s he had carried on pioneer service in France, Belgium and Holland, largely underground. After meeting Brother Knorr, he went on to visit the brothers scattered in various parts of Italy, to reestablish contact with them before the arrival of the missionaries. So it was that during the months of May and June 1946 he visited the largest existing groups of brothers.

The first appointed circuit overseer, however, was Brother George Fredianelli, who began his visits in November 1946. He was accompanied the first time around by Brother Vannozzi.
In 1947 the second circuit was formed and originally assigned to Brother Giuseppe Tubini. When this brother entered Bethel service a few months later, Brother Piero Gatti took his place. Both these brothers had come to a knowledge of the truth in Switzerland in one of the many refugee camps full of thousands of Italian soldiers who had fled to escape the Nazis. Many more brothers who had learned the truth abroad came back in the immediate postwar period to bring the Kingdom message to Italy. After 33 years Brother Tubini and Brother Gatti are still in the full-time service, the former at Bethel and the latter in the circuit work. (as of the time this was published)

First Circuit Assembly
In September 1947 the first circuit assembly was held at Roseto degli Abruzzi. (shown in the illustration above) It should have been held at Pescara, but there, as a result of clergy opposition, permission to use the hall was canceled. Undaunted, the brothers met in a private cul-de-sac that could be reached only through Brother Domenico Cimorosi’s garden. The road was closed and covered with tarpaulins, and a table was placed under a shady canopy of vines to serve as the speaker’s podium. About 100 happy brothers attended.
Usually, in the early 1950’s, assemblies would open with only 40 to 60 present, while at the public talk there would generally be an average attendance of 200 persons. The brothers thought it was marvelous to have such a number!
The work continued to progress, and in 1954 Brother George Fredianelli was assigned to work as district overseer.

Brother Vannozzi’s Travels
An account of Brother Vannozzi’s travels will help us to realize the many discomforts traveling overseers had to put up with in those days. He wrote:
“I left Como and, after all kinds of adventures, I finally reached Foggia in the region of Puglia. I looked around for the station, but all in vain—it had been razed to the ground in a bombing raid. I took a train for Cerignola, where I was directed for my first visit, but at a certain point I was told that the train did not go any farther and I had to proceed by truck. I arrived at my destination at seven o’clock in the evening of the day after, very tired and dusty. In spite of everything, I felt rewarded when, at the meeting, a brother thanked Jehovah in prayer that after all these years of waiting, they had finally been visited by someone from the organization. The brothers cried at the end of the visit and I was also deeply moved.

“I traveled throughout Italy on roads still damaged due to the ravages of war, and I never saw a bridge left standing. Twenty-two thousand bridges had been blown up, and those that could be crossed were those that had been temporarily repaired by the Allies. I saw hundreds of burned-out railway carriages and locomotives, and all the towns had suffered bomb damage.

“I left Cerignola at six in the morning to visit the group at Pietrelcina, in the province of Benevento. I arrived at Benevento at seven in the evening, after having sat for three hours on my luggage in a cattle wagon! When I arrived at the station, I waited as agreed with a Watchtower magazine in my hand so that the brothers would recognize me. But nobody turned up. What should I do?

“Pietrelcina was still about 12 kilometers [7 mi.] away, and at that time in the evening there was no means of getting there. As I was standing there waiting, a man with a horse-drawn two-wheeled buggy offered me a lift. It was 9:30 in the evening and I started to look for the house of Brother Michele Cavalluzzo in the dark. It was no easy undertaking. But Jehovah’s angel was watching over me and did not leave me in despair. Finally, I found the house and Brother Michele Cavalluzzo joyfully had a meal quickly prepared for me. Was I hungry! I hadn’t eaten anything since the previous evening. I was also very tired and longing to go to bed, but dear Brother Cavalluzzo had many questions to ask me and wanted to tell me, from beginning to end, how he had come into the truth. So we stayed up till midnight. The next morning the telegram announcing my arrival was delivered, but I had won the race—I got there first!

“Nearly every evening about 35 people attended the meetings, although there were almost no baptized brothers. I left Pietrelcina for Foggia at 4 a.m. I climbed up on a horse-drawn cart driven by one of the brothers and accompanied by the overseer, Brother Donato Iadanza. Although we were no longer in the 1920’s, this was the commonest means of transport immediately after the war. We arrived at Benevento at 6 a.m. but, alas, the train had already left.

“At this point someone suggested I talk with a train engineer who was taking a locomotive through to Foggia. I caught up with him as he was grumbling to some other people, who were also trying to get a ride. I heard him say he had no room for passengers. In spite of this we all climbed aboard, and Brother Iadanza just managed to run after the engine in time to pass me my case. I squeezed into the narrow space inside the locomotive with about 10 other people, and there we stayed, packed like sardines for the whole five-hour journey. We were all sweating because of the heat and lack of air and were abundantly singed by the sparks flying out from underneath the boiler. When we arrived near Foggia, the engineer stopped the locomotive in the middle of the countryside, and we all got off.

“After that I visited the groups at Spoltore, Pianella, Montesilvano, Roseto degli Abruzzi and Villa Vomano. My last visit of the series was to Faenza, where about 50 persons were attending the meetings. I encouraged the younger ones to take up the pioneer service, and in my report on the group I wrote: ‘Let us hope that one day some of these young people will decide to enroll in the ranks of those carrying on this privileged service.’”

Circuit Activity Of Brother Fredianelli
Brother George Fredianelli, a member of the Branch Committee (as of the time this was published), recalls the following events from his circuit activity:
“When I called on brothers I would find relatives and friends all waiting for me and anxious to listen. Even on return visits people called in their relatives. In actual fact, the circuit overseer didn’t give just one public talk a week, but one a few hours long at every return visit. At these calls there might even be 30 persons present and sometimes many more gathered together to listen attentively.
“The aftermath of the war often made life in the circuit work difficult. The brothers, like most other people, were very poor, but their loving-kindness made up for it. They wholeheartedly shared the little food they had, and often they would insist that I sleep on the bed while they lay down on the floor without covers because they were too poor to have any extra ones. Sometimes I had to sleep in the cow stall on a heap of straw or dried corn leaves.

“On one occasion, I arrived at the station of Caltanissetta in Sicily with a face as black as a chimney sweep’s from the soot flying out of the steam engine in front. Although it had taken me 14 hours to travel about 80 to 100 kilometers [50 to 60 mi.], my spirits rose on arrival, as I conjured up visions of a nice bath followed by a well-earned rest in some hotel or other. However, it was not to be. Caltanissetta was teeming with people for the celebration of St. Michael’s Day, and every hotel in town was packed full of priests and nuns. Finally I went back to the station with the idea of lying down on a bench that I had seen in the waiting room, but even that hope vanished when I found the station closed after the arrival of the last evening train. The only place I found to sit down and rest a while was the steps in front of the station.”

With the help of the circuit overseers the congregations began to hold regular Watchtower and book studies. Furthermore, as we improved the quality of service meetings, the brothers became more and more qualified in the preaching and teaching work.
those were some dedicated, hard-working brothers! =)

daily text 11/28

Saturday, November 28th, 2009
"Just as the days of Noah were, so the presence of the Son of man will be." (Matthew 24:37)

The fact that the Greek word pa·rou·si′a refers to an extended period of time harmonizes with what Jesus said with regard to his presence. (Matthew 24:38, 39) Notice that Jesus did not liken his presence to the relatively short period of time during which the Flood occurred in Noah’s day. Rather, he compared his presence to the much longer period of time that led up to the Flood. Included therein were Noah’s building of the ark and his preaching work, right up until the time that the Flood finally arrived. Those events occurred over many decades. In a similar way, Christ’s presence includes the events leading up to and including the great tribulation. (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9) Other Bible prophecies make it evident that Christ’s presence refers to an extended period of time and not merely to his coming to destroy the wicked.
(Watchtower issue: 02/15/08, 5:4, 5)

Jesus' words at (Matthew 16:1-3) have always struck me as being so appropriate in relation to human behavior and lack of comprehension:

“The Pharisees and Sadducees approached him and, to tempt him, they asked him to display to them a sign from heaven. In reply he said to them: ‘When evening falls you are accustomed to say, “It will be fair weather, for the sky is fire-red”; and at morning, “It will be wintry, rainy weather today, for the sky is fire-red, but gloomy-looking.” You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but the signs of the times you cannot interpret.’”

Humans show remarkable insight and intellect in regards to some aspects of life...yet at the same time can be completely oblivious to the bigger picture.
The way so many people don't seem to comprehend or 'see' such obvious indications that make up the 'composite sign' of
Jesus' Presence -reminds me so much of the Pharisees and Sadducees. They invested so much time in research & study, and they were always so fixated on minor details, law codes, and getting down to the 'nitty gritty' in all areas of life. Yet despite all their knowledge, they were virtually 'blind' to the reality of what was going on around them. They wanted Jesus to show them 'a sign' even though 'the signs' were all around them...they were just choosing to ignore the evidence.
And in the end, none of their 'superior intellect' (which they spent all those years studying and teaching), helped them, or anyone else, one bit. It was all destroyed or taken away when Jerusalem was captured.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Post-War Neutrality Issue in Italy

*the following info is on pgs 222-227 of the 1982 Yearbook regarding the Christian neutrality issue in Italy after WWII

The Neutrality Issue

We have already described Remigio Cuminetti’s “odyssey” and the trials undergone by young Witnesses during the 1930’s. Nevertheless, the problem of Christian neutrality was to become even more acute after World War II, when there were greater numbers of young Christian men conscientiously desiring to keep themselves separate from the world.
The first brothers sent for trial in this period were given very heavy sentences and had a difficult time of it in prison. Some were tried five and six times, receiving sentences that added up to four or more years of imprisonment. This was because when a young Witness came out of prison he was drafted for military service again and sent back to prison every time he refused to comply. In theory, this chain of events could have gone on until one reached 45 years of age, when one is no longer subject to military call-up. However, after repeating the sentence a few times, the military authorities usually exempted the brothers on health grounds to avoid making martyrs out of them. They were classified as suffering from “religious paranoia” or “religious delirium.” In other words, they were considered mentally infirm.


A few brief experiences from some of the brothers who overcame this test...
Ennio Alfarano, sentenced five times during the 1950’s:
“I was imprisoned at Gaeta. The captain tried to compel three of us to give the military salute, and when we all refused he punished us by having our arms and legs tied tightly behind our backs for eight hours. It was very painful. Nonetheless, we kept our courage high by prayer and by the singing of songs to cheer one another up, and it helped us. After this, we were supposed to be kept on bread and water for three days, but other brothers in the prison got to know about this and always managed to bring us enough food to keep us going.”

Giuseppe Timoncini, also sentenced five times from 1956 to 1961:
“The military authorities tried to discourage me by saying: ‘None of Jehovah’s Witnesses resist for long. At the most they go through one trial and then they decide to do military service.’ I used to answer that this was not true. At this point they would reel off a list of names of those who had agreed to join the army. Of course, the names were invented.
“To help myself bear the months of close confinement I tried to think as little as possible about the end of my sentence, and sometimes I would completely forget how many months and days I still had to serve. I think this period of my life provided much useful training. It helped me to learn to adapt myself to any situation and to be humble and confide more closely in Jehovah God.”


Gino Tosetti, who spent more than four years in prison:
“My first days in prison in solitary confinement were very hard to bear. I remember what happened at Palermo. One morning the guard woke me up saying, ‘Get out of that bed Tosetti; there’s a pile of wood waiting to be chopped!’ He had had me on wood chopping every morning up till then, but that day I was in no condition to do it anymore. My hands were so blistered and sore I would not have been able to grip the ax.
“I asked to see the doctor. ‘You can only stay in bed if you have a temperature. If you haven’t got one you’ll be in trouble!’ he shot at me as he walked out. Thinking the worst was about to happen, I prayed to Jehovah to help me, and when they came to take my temperature I was as surprised as they were when the thermometer registered 39° C (102° F.).
“I had plenty of opportunities to witness. Once I was able to speak to a group of about 40 soldiers who stood around me listening carefully for nearly two hours. Our good conduct encouraged many, including our guards, to accept the truth. One morning a soldier on guard duty said to me: ‘Tosetti, please forgive me for all the bad things I have done to you. In spite of my behavior you never tried to get back at me. Last night on guard duty I read your magazine The Watchtower and it helped me to understand lots of things I didn’t think were important. I want you to help me understand them better.’
“This young soldier had been only too ready to cause trouble for me, but I was more than willing to forgive him. Afterward, we lost sight of each other, and several years passed by. By this time I had regained my freedom and was attending a district assembly when a person came up to me saying: ‘Why, don’t you remember me [he told me his name] when I used to open and close the prison gates for you and you used to speak to me about the truth?’ He had become a brother. We threw our arms around each other with tears in our eyes.”

(yay! =) isn't that awesome?)

As the number of Witnesses increased, the issue was continually brought to the attention of the public and the authorities alike. Finally, a law was approved decreeing that those who do not agree to do alternative service shall be sentenced to one single prison term, so that our young brothers are now given from 12 to 15 months’ imprisonment.
In the meantime, living conditions in military prisons have also improved. The Witnesses can hold regular meetings and have a theocratic library to help them with their personal study. They can have circuit assembly and district convention programs and even do the Bible dramas in costume. They have also been permitted to baptize some who have decided to dedicate their lives to Jehovah while still in prison. Each military prison is regularly visited by Christian elders who are specially assigned to this service.


From 1978 to 1980 there have been, on an average, 500 young brothers a year in prison on account of the neutrality issue. It is calculated that up to the present, several thousand Witnesses have kept a clear conscience before Jehovah God in this respect. In December 1980, the defense minister announced over national television that a parliamentary bill that would further improve the position of our brothers is under consideration. During the interview he described the Witnesses as “decent people” and declared that with the new law “the State will show respect for all religions.”

The conduct of young Witnesses with regard to Christian neutrality has served to enhance the esteem enjoyed by Jehovah’s people. For example, Il Corriere di Trieste stated:
“Jehovah’s Witnesses should be admired for their firmness and coherence. Contrary to other religions, their oneness as a people prevents them from praying to the same God, in the name of the same Christ, to bless two opposing sides of a conflict, or from mixing politics with religion to serve the interests of Heads of State or political parties. Last but not least, they are ready to face death rather than violate the basic precept set forth for man’s salvation: the commandment THOU SHALT NOT KILL!”


Young men in the Christian congregation have taken to heart the inspired exhortation to “beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears” (Isaiah 2:4) and have taken a personal stand to maintain their neutrality with respect to world controversies.—John 17:14, 16.

daily text 11/27

Friday, November 27th, 2009
"You have been built up upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets." (Ephesians 2:20)

Jesus compassionately dealt with his disciples. On the night before his death, all the apostles he had loved so much “abandoned him and fled.” (Matthew 26:56; John 13:1) The apostle Peter even denied Christ three times! Nevertheless, Jesus left a way open for his apostles to return to him. He told Peter: “I have made supplication for you that your faith may not give out; and you, when once you have returned, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:32) Spiritual Israel has successfully been founded on “the apostles and prophets,” and the foundation stones of the wall of New Jerusalem bear the names of the 12 faithful apostles of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. To this day, with Jehovah’s blessing, anointed Christians along with their dedicated associates, the “other sheep,” flourish as a Kingdom-preaching organization.—John 10:16; Revelation. 21:14.
(Watchtower issue: 02/15/08, 3:13)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

P.U.S.H.

*before I post a yearbook experience today, I wanted to post this cute/encouraging little illustration that someone sent me, since it ties in well with today's text discussion about prayer and 'throwing your anxiety upon God'...

Be Obedient and Push
Jehovah told a certain man that he had work for him to do. This certain man had a large rock in front of his house and Jehovah explained that the man was to push against the rock with all his might. The man did this, day after day. For many years he toiled from sunrise to sunset, his shoulders set squarely against the cold, massive surface of the unmoving rock, pushing with all his might. Each night the man returned home sore, worn out, and feeling that his whole day had been spent in vain.
Seeing that the man was showing signs of discouragement, Satan decided to enter the picture and place a few thoughts into the man's weary mind: "You have been pushing against that rock for a long time, and it hasn't budged an inch. Why kill yourself over this? You are never going to move it."
This gave the man the impression that the task was impossible and that he was a failure. These thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man. "Why kill myself over this?" he thought. "I'll just put in my time, give the minimum effort and that will be good enough."
And that is what he planned to do until he decided to make it a matter of prayer and take his troubled thoughts to Jehovah...
"Jehovah, I have labored long and hard in your service, putting all my strength and effort into doing what you've asked of me...Yet, after all this time, I have not even budged that rock by half a millimeter. What is wrong? Why am I failing?"
Then Jehovah responded compassionately, "When I asked you to serve, and you accepted, I told you that your task was to push against the rock with all your strength, which you have done. Never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. Your task was to push. And now you come to me, with your strength spent, thinking that you have failed. But is that really so?Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled, your back is sinewed and brown, your hands are calloused from constant pressure, and your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you have grown much and your abilities now surpass that which you used to have. No, you haven't moved the rock, but then all I ever asked was that you be obedient and push. It was through your works that you exercised faith in me." (James 2:14, 18)
"This you have done, and now I will move the rock for you."

At times, when we may tend to think little of ourselves and our service to Jehovah and we become disheartened and discouraged, we need to remember what Jehovah asks of us: just simple obedience and faith in him. By all means, exercise faith that moves mountains, (Matthew 17:20) but know that it's Jehovah who does the moving.
So when everything seems to go wrong, just PUSH. When your job gets you down, just PUSH. When people don't react the way you think they should, just PUSH. When people don't treat you kindly, just PUSH. When people reject you in the ministry just PUSH.

P.U.S.H. = Pray Until Something Happens!!!

In this time of the end with trials mounting, we need all the encouragement we can get and support from our fellow brothers and sisters to "incite to love and fine works" (Hebrews 10:24), and help hold each other up so we can walk victoriously into the new system.
Pass this on to those you love.

daily text 11/26

Thursday, November 26th, 2009
"Throw all your anxiety upon [God], because he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7)


At the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem, Solomon implored Jehovah to hear the prayer of each honesthearted one who approached Him concerning “his own plague and his own pain.” (2 Chronicles 6:29-31) Solomon expressed his confidence that God would not only hear the prayers of these distressed individuals but also act in their behalf. We can likewise approach Jehovah in prayer concerning our individual distresses. We should be comforted in knowing that he understands our distresses and that he cares about us. It matters to Jehovah what happens to us. Jesus emphasized Jehovah’s loving care, saying: “Do not two sparrows sell for a coin of small value? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. . . . Therefore have no fear: you are worth more than many sparrows.”—Matthew 10:29-31.
(Watchtower issue: 03/15/08, 3:5, 6)

what's interesting about Solomon's prayer at 2 Chronicles chpt 6 (which I highly recommend listening to, by downloading the audio version off the website, since it really makes the account come alive), is that after he lists a variety of different 'plagues' that could befall the people which he sums up in verse 28...
"In case a famine occurs in the land, in case a pestilence occurs, in case scorching and mildew, locusts and cockroaches occur; in case their enemies besiege them in the land of their gates"

Solomon then goes on to add that very personal part of the request which encompasses literally every sort of petition that could be made to God:
"—any sort of plague and any sort of malady—whatever prayer, whatever request for favor there may occur on the part of any man or of all your people Israel, because they know each one his own plague and his own pain; when he actually spreads out his palms toward this house, then may you yourself hear from the heavens, the place of your dwelling, and you must forgive and give to each one according to all his ways, because you know his heart (for you yourself alone well know the heart of the sons of mankind); to the end that they may fear you by walking in your ways all the days that they are alive upon the surface of the ground that you gave to our forefathers." (2 Ch 6:29-31)

Then Solomon even includes in his request the petitions made by foreigners who have only *heard* of Jehovah's name and his great power, so that even their prayers should be granted:
"And also to the foreigner who is no part of your people Israel and who actually comes from a distant land by reason of your great name and your strong hand and your stretched-out arm, and they actually come and pray toward this house, then may you yourself listen from the heavens, from your established place of dwelling, and you must do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you; in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and may fear you the same as your people Israel do, and may know that your name has been called upon this house that I have built." (2 Ch 6:32, 33)

but the best part is how Jehovah 'answers' Solomon's prayer:
"Now as soon as Sol′o·mon finished praying, the fire itself came down from the heavens and proceeded to consume the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and Jehovah’s glory itself filled the house. And the priests were unable to enter into the house of Jehovah because Jehovah’s glory had filled the house of Jehovah. And all the sons of Israel were spectators when the fire came down and the glory of Jehovah was upon the house, and they immediately bowed low with their faces to the earth upon the pavement and prostrated themselves and thanked Jehovah, “for he is good, for his loving-kindness is to time indefinite.” (2 Ch 7:1-3)

here's a good article from the website also:
The Power of Prayer

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Yearbook Experiences - WWII In Italy

the following experiences are on pgs 174-179 of the 1982 Yearbook

(illustration of Br Aldo Fornerone, on pg 177)

Neutrality A Protection
As in other countries, maintaining neutrality has served as a protection for the brothers in Italy. For example, Aldo Fornerone, a faithful 76-year-old brother imprisoned and sent into exile during World War II, relates this experience:
“Although the Nazis were in retreat, they were still holding the area where I lived, and during a punitive expedition three German soldiers burst into our house. At a glance the officer saw a Bible on the table and a picture on the wall depicting the scene of Isaiah 11:6-9 with a wolf, lambs, a lion, a goat and a calf, all together with a little child. In German he asked, ‘Bibelforscher?’ or, ‘Bible Students?’ I nodded my head.


“Then, in French, he asked my wife to give them something to eat and gave orders to his men to shut the door and stay inside the house. Again in French he explained: ‘I have told my men we shall be all right here because you are Jehovah’s Witnesses, the only people we can trust.’ He also told us he had relatives in Germany who had been sent to a concentration camp because they were Witnesses. While these soldiers ate, shooting could be heard outside, many houses were set on fire and numerous civilians were killed. At the end of the punitive expedition these soldiers left the village, and the officer shook hands with us as he said good-bye.
“Not long afterward the commander of the Italian resistance group arrived with 16 of his men. ‘Why didn’t they take you away with the rest of the civilians?’ he asked. He knew me and also was aware of the fact that I had been in prison and in exile because I would not take part in the war. They all listened as I witnessed to them, and they accepted the booklet Comfort for the People. After having partaken of something to eat and drink, they also went on their way. The commander said: ‘If everyone were like you we wouldn’t be hunted down like wild animals, and there wouldn’t be such trouble in the world.’ This experience made me appreciate more than ever before the value of maintaining one’s neutrality.”


Help From The Brothers
Many brothers who were sent to prison left their wives and small children at home. Did anyone help them? Vincenzo Artusi related:
“When I was exiled to another part of Italy for one year, I was very worried about my wife and three small children. I was also afraid that the clergy might take advantage of my absence to entice my wife away from the truth because she had only been interested for a short time. But Jehovah was watching over them, and with the help of the brothers who still had their freedom my family was sustained materially and spiritually. My wife made a final break with the Catholic Church as a result of the brothers’ loving visits, which were also spiritually upbuilding.”


The Work Continues In Spite Of The War
The fall of Fascism came about in 1943, and the majority of the brothers were released from prison afterward. Nevertheless, the war was still raging throughout the country, and while the Allies advanced from the south, the Nazi troops slowly retreated to the north, leaving death and destruction behind them.
Even during the darkest period of the war, efforts were made to reestablish contact with the brothers who were still in their homes and enjoying relative freedom of movement. Agostino Fossati, a brother who was faithful until his death in 1980, had been expelled from Switzerland because of the truth. In 1940 and 1941 he did all he could to correspond with certain brothers, sending them various publications, including Watchtower articles that he translated from French. He was arrested in January 1942 and sent into exile.


Sometime afterward, Brother Narciso Riet took refuge in Italy. Born in Germany of Italian parents from the province of Udine, he had lived at Mülheim an der Ruhr until the Gestapo discovered his activity of introducing clandestine copies of The Watchtower into the concentration camps. When it became clear that it was dangerous for him to stay on any longer, a brother working on the railways helped him to reach his wife who had recently gone to live in Italy at Cernobbio on Lake Como, near the Swiss border.
The Swiss branch assigned Brother Riet the task of translating the Watchtower magazines from German into Italian and then forwarding copies to the brothers. To ensure that the police would not intercept them in the mail, deliveries were to be made by hand to brothers not too far away in northern and central Italy.

Brother Riet bought a typewriter and immediately set to work to translate the main articles of the magazines. He was helped by Brother Agostino Fossati, who had returned from his year in exile, and later by Sister Maria Pizzato when she was released in 1943. The magazines were introduced into Italy by underground methods. After translation, copies were run off on a duplicator and given to Brother Fossati, who was in charge of deliveries. He traveled to Pescara, Trent, Sondrio, Aosta and Pinerolo to take this spiritual food to the brothers, under constant risk of arrest and imprisonment.


After the arrival of Sister Pizzato, the Nazis, helped by their Fascist henchmen, found out where Brother Riet was living, and, as Sister Pizzato relates: “One day at the end of December, his house was surrounded, and an SS officer and his men burst in. Narciso was arrested and kept at gunpoint while the soldiers searched the house. They soon found the ‘criminal’ evidence they were looking for—two Bibles and a few letters! Narciso was sent on a long journey back to Germany, where he was imprisoned in Dachau concentration camp. There he was horribly tortured. For a long time he was kept chained up like a dog in a low narrow cell, where he was forced to remain curled up day and night. After much suffering inflicted in one camp after another, he was put to death with other unfortunate prisoners before the Allies occupied Berlin. His remains were never found.”


Sister Pizzato continued the work begun by Brother Riet, and when Brother Fossati was arrested again she also had to deliver the spiritual food herself. After making about 70 copies of each translated article, she delivered them personally, as long as it was possible to travel.
When all the lines of communication had been interrupted by bombing, she decided to send the translation of the main article in The Watchtower of January 1, 1945 (English ed.) by mail to brothers at Castione Andevenno, in the province of Sondrio. The article was intercepted and handed over to the police, so Sister Pizzato was taken in for questioning once again. She was, however, allowed to go home afterward, and she quickly decided to take the opportunity of leaving the area so that others would not be involved. That same night she destroyed the evidence of her activity from December 1943 to March 1945, and she was helped by friends to reach Switzerland, together with Brother Riet’s widow.


At the end of the war all refugees had to return to Italy, and the two sisters went back to Cernobbio. The Swiss branch gave Sister Pizzato the job of establishing fresh contacts with the brothers, now that Fascism had been definitely swept away and the war had ended. The brothers had been severely tried, but they were grateful to Jehovah and full of zeal. Very few of them had fallen victim to the Devil’s snares. Now a large doorway to vast activity was open before them.—1 Corinthians 16:9.

daily text 11/25

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009
"[Do] nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism, but with lowliness of mind considering that the others are superior to you, keeping an eye, not in personal interest upon just your own matters, but also in personal interest upon those of the others." (Philippians 2:3, 4)


Humility will help us to have the proper view of others. Displaying personal interest in others and looking for the good in them will also help us to view them as Jehovah does and thereby help us in our relationships with all in the congregation. In recent times, global developments have resulted in vast movements of people. Some cities are now inhabited by people from many different lands. Some of the people new to our area have become interested in Bible truth, and they have joined us in worshipping Jehovah. These are “out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues.” (Revelation 7:9) As a result, many of our congregations have in a sense become more international.
(Watchtower issue: 03/15/08, 5:10, 11)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Italian Brothers & Sisters Are Imprisoned

the following info (continued from the account in the previous post) is on pgs 169-173 of the 1982 Yearbook.

Brothers In Prison
Besides giving us an example of courage and faith, the experiences of the brothers who underwent imprisonment during the war years show that Jehovah’s loving assistance never failed them. They zealously continued to speak to others about the “good news” inside prison, and even there they underwent persecution from the clergy.

Santina Cimorosi of Roseto degli Abruzzi, who was 25 years old at the time of her arrest, relates:
“They took us away to the police station saying that we were a danger to the State because we did not agree with the war. My father [Domenico Cimorosi] was put into one cell and I was put into another. The cells were dark inside. The carabiniere switched his torch on to show me where there was a wooden bunk to sleep on. Then he shut me in. When I heard the sound of the door being locked, a wave of discomfort and fear swept over me. I began to cry. I knelt down and prayed to Jehovah out loud. Little by little my fear ebbed away and I stopped crying. Jehovah answered my prayer by sending me strength and courage, and I realized that, without his help, I was nothing at all. I passed the night in prayer and the next morning I was taken to the prison at Teramo, where I was put in a cell with my father, Caterina Di Marco and three other brothers—six of us in all.
“From time to time, we were questioned to find out who our ‘leaders’ were. They often asked me, ‘Are you still a Jehovah’s Witness?’ and naturally I always answered, ‘Yes!’ They tried to frighten me by saying I would never be let out of prison anymore, but I trusted in Jehovah and his power to help me. Later on, an altar was placed in front of my cell door. They had it put there especially for my benefit, and for several weeks the priest continued to say Mass there. The door of my cell would be left open, either to see if I wanted to go back to the Catholic Church, or in the hope that I would disturb the service and merit a longer sentence. But I stayed quietly in my cell as though nothing were going on outside and thanked Jehovah for helping me to act wisely. Seeing that I did not react, they removed the altar sometime afterward and the priest did not come anymore.”


Brother Dante Rioggi, who had learned the truth from Brother Marcello Martinelli, related: “In prison I was not allowed to write to my relatives or anyone else. My literature, money and wristwatch were taken away. From November [1939] to the end of February, I shivered with cold, because not only was the cell unheated but the window had no glass in it. I was not even given a change of clothing, and soon I was reduced to a miserable, repulsive creature afflicted with parasites. Two or three times I was visited by priests who assured me that if I were to return to my parents’ religion I would be freed. I applied to the questura [police headquarters] and obtained a Bible. Thereafter I drew courage from the example of faithful men who had kept their integrity even at the risk of their lives and had been blessed by Jehovah. Prayer was another means of strengthening my faith in Jehovah’s promises.”

Brother Domenico Giorgini, a brother who has been faithful in the service for over 40 years and is still serving as an elder in a congregation in the province of Teramo, relates: “It was October 6, 1939. While we were in the vineyard gathering the grape harvest I saw a truck with two carabiniere officers pull up before my house. They took me back to Teramo prison, and there I stayed for five months. Then I was sentenced to three years’ exile on the island of Ventotene. There I found myself in company with five other brothers and about 600 political prisoners. In this latter group there were a number of well-known political personalities, including a man who later became president of the Republic, and I had the privilege of witnessing to them about God’s kingdom. Since the Fascist government considered many of these political prisoners particularly dangerous, the island was kept under strict surveillance. It was patrolled by a motor launch armed with a machine gun ready to open fire on anyone trying to escape.”

Sisters In Prison
Sister Mariantonia Di Censo, sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment by the Special Tribunal, narrates: “I shall never forget the words of the examining magistrate. He said: ‘I have read their literature to find out what it was all about and I have questioned the 26 accused. They are all coherent with their beliefs and ready to accuse themselves to save their companions. The situation is not so serious as it was thought to be. The clergy have made too much fuss over the matter.’”
Sister Di Censo served her sentence at Perugia. Another sister imprisoned at Perugia was Albina Cuminetti, who died faithful to the heavenly calling in 1962. In a written account we are told: “Once another prisoner asked Albina what she had done. Albina replied, ‘I haven’t done anything. We are in here because we refuse to kill our fellowman.’
“‘What!’ the woman exclaimed, ‘You are in here because you refuse to kill? How many years have they given you?’
“‘Eleven,’ replied Sister Cuminetti.
“At this the other cried: ‘What next? They have given you 11 years for refusing to kill your fellowman, and yet they have given me 10 years for killing my husband. That’s the limit. Either I am crazy or they are!’”
“One day,” the account adds, “Albina had the opportunity of witnessing to the prison governor in the presence of a nun charged with the surveillance of the prisoners.”

Letters From The Prison Governor
In 1953, when Sister Cuminetti and the other three sisters with whom she had been in prison met at an assembly, they wrote a letter to the prison governor at Perugia. In the meantime he had been transferred to Alessandria, but he eventually received the letter and sent back this significant reply dated January 28, 1954:

“Dear Madam,
“Thank you for the kind things you said about me in your letter. You had all been sentenced for an nonexistent crime and I am very happy to know that, in the very city where you were brought for trial, Rome, you have been able to meet together again, this time to sing the praises of your God Jehovah at your assembly.
“If you have the occasion to see or correspond with the other ladies who suffered so much for the God in whom they believed and continue to believe, please remember me to them. I shall always remember you and admire your faith and strength of character.
“Thanking you for the book you sent me, I remain,

Dr. Antonio Paolorosso,
Governor in Chief of the Alessandria Penal Establishments”


“The tested quality of your faith,” wrote the apostle Peter, is, “of much greater value than gold.” (1 Peter 1:7) The brothers who maintained their integrity under persecution recognize that these difficulties served to strengthen them.

1939 - Jehovah's Witnesses Are Banned In Italy

*I'm gonna break up the entries into 2 posts today so they aren't so long. The first with info about the trial, the second with info about the prison sentences. When you read the following info from pgs 162-169 of the 1982 Yearbook, you can see exactly what Jesus meant when he said:
"Be on YOUR guard against men; for they will deliver YOU up to local courts, and they will scourge YOU in their synagogues. Why, YOU will be haled before governors and kings for my sake, for a witness to them and the nations." (Matthew 10:17, 18)


But despite all the hardship these brothers & sisters had to endure, what they went through wasn't in vain. Like Jesus said, it serves as 'a witness' by clearing our reputation from all the slander and misrepresentation that's been heaped upon us and our beliefs, since it provides a clear written testimony recorded by our own enemies! Which helps to "shut the mouths" of opposers, as mentioned at (Titus 1:10) "For there are many unruly men, profitless talkers, and deceivers of the mind,...It is necessary to shut the mouths of these."

Report Issued On Witnesses
Dr. Pasquale Andriani, the General Superintendent of Police at Avezzano (Abruzzi), carried out an inquiry in accordance with the dispositions set forth in the previously mentioned circular. On January 12, 1940, he sent his report to the Public Prosecutor of the Special Tribunal for the Protection of the State. He also sent a copy to the chief of police. The subject of his report was, “The Religious Sect of ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses.’” Here are a few of the salient points:
“In a circular issued last August, the Ministry for Home Affairs gave instructions regarding the identification of members of those sects extending their activities to the political field. These sects should therefore be considered and dealt with in the same way as political movements of a subversive nature. . .
“The sect [of Jehovah’s Witnesses] is particularly dangerous from a political point of view. . . .
“In short, it can be said that [from the booklet, Warning] Il Duce is likened to the giant Goliath and that ‘the hateful monstrosity of today is the Totalitarian Regime under an absolute and arbitrary dictator’ and supported by the Church of Rome, ‘the great harlot.’ After having subjugated the Italian people, this Regime has embarked upon the conquest of Ethiopia ‘at the cost of so many human lives.’ . . .
“However, the most serious aspect of the question arises from their respect for the Christian precept ‘thou shalt not kill,’ and their conviction that on no account should they take up arms against their fellowman.
“They feel, therefore, that they should be exempt from any kind of military service. Their young people refuse to do preliminary training and if they are imprisoned for this stand, they again refuse to participate at the end of their sentence.”


The Investigators Are Unmasked
The authorities were moving against us in no uncertain way. But why? Who was really behind the campaign of arrests? When speaking of the closing down of the Milan office, the above-mentioned report explicitly stated: “After only a few months the office was closed by the Milan police because of the anti-Fascist tone of the books distributed and the reaction of the Catholic clergy.”
The report goes on to mention the activity of the 26 Witnesses arrested as those chiefly responsible for this religious movement in Italy.
The fact that the clergy were mainly responsible for stirring up trouble with the Fascist authorities is further shown by the false accusations contained in an article published in the Catholic journal Fides of February 1939. This article, written by an anonymous “priest and guardian of souls,” stated:
“Rutherford [the second president of the Watch Tower Society] . . . undermines the basic principles sustaining the nations and peoples. . . The Jehovah’s Witness movement is an expression of atheistic Communism and an open attack on State security.”
The Fascist authorities could hardly ignore these accusations from the highly respected clergy. Jehovah’s Witnesses were therefore persecuted and accused of ‘overthrowing kingdoms and governments’ and working to establish an ‘atheistic Communist Utopia.’

(isn't that unbelievable? Jehovah's Witnesses would end up spending even more time in Communist Soviet prisons and Siberian exile than they had originally spent in Nazi concentration camps, due to the fact that we are AGAINST communism, and quite obviously we aren't atheists. lol)

The Work Is Completely Banned
After receipt of this report, the Ministry for Home Affairs sent out another circular, the last of its kind, in which Jehovah’s Witnesses were clearly identified and banned. It was circular No. 441/02977 of March 13, 1940, referring to “The religious sect of ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ or ‘Bible Students’ and other religious sects whose principles are contrary to our institutions.” It stated:


“After the distribution of the ministerial circular No. 441/027713 of August 22, 1939, closer investigation has been made into those religious sects that are separate and distinct from the known ‘Pentecostal’ sect and whose doctrines are contrary to our State system.
“From such investigation, it has been possible to ascertain that the ‘Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society - International Bible Students’ Association - Brooklyn New York-U.S.A.’ . . . is an independent evangelical sect, commonly known as ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ or ‘Bible Students.’ A consideration of the statements made by many of its [members] on arrest, and an examination of the printed matter found in their possession, has enabled us clearly to delineate the characteristics of the sect. . . .
“The only law recognized by ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ is the law of God; however, they do admit the observance of civil law where this is not in conflict with divine law. . . .
“‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ proclaim that both ‘Il Duce’ and Fascism originate from the Devil and that, after a period of short-lived victory, these phenomena must unfailingly meet their downfall as foretold in the book of Revelation. . . .
“No efforts should be spared, therefore, to repress the slightest manifestations of this sect’s activity. Since it is sustained by printed matter edited by the ‘Watch Tower,’ you are authorized to take vigorous measures so that such literature be confiscated at every opportunity or intercepted should it be sent through the mail.”
*

*[footnote]
The passages cited from the three circulars have been taken from the book Provvedimenti ostativi dell’autorità di polizia e garanzie costituzionali per il libero esercizio dei culti ammessi (Repressive Measures Taken by Police Authorities and the Freedom to Practice Certain Cults as Guaranteed by the Constitution), by Giorgio Peyrot and published by Giuffrè.

Before The Special Tribunal
The Fascist Special Tribunal came into being after an attempt to kill Mussolini at Bologna in October 1926. It was one of the many measures taken to nip anti-Fascist dissent in the bud. Officially known as “The Special Tribunal for the Protection of the State,” it remained in operation from 1927 to 1943, during which period it pronounced over 5,000 verdicts, including 42 death sentences (31 of which were carried out). Its headquarters were at the Palace of Justice in Rome.
On April 19, 1940, in the austere courtroom of the Palace of Justice, the judges were seated at their imposing semicircular bench under the presidency of the widely feared Tringali Casanova. The accused persons were sitting in a row on one side of the court under the surveillance of a number of carabinieri (officers). There were four women and 22 men, the latter in handcuffs. It was a repeat performance of what happened to true Christians in the days of ancient Rome.
Sister Pizzato relates: “The trial was nothing but a farce. It was over and done with in a single day and the sentences had evidently been decided upon in advance...

“The court had assigned our defense to a number of lawyers from the Rome forum. I must say they made out a good case for the defense and spoke on our behalf with such warmth that the president, with evident sarcasm, asked one of them if by any chance he had been converted to the Jehovah’s Witness religion!”

The seven defending lawyers did their best, but the brothers were inevitably found guilty. One of the lawyers had the courage to call the 26 Witnesses, “the flower of the Italian nation.” Another asked: “If the Fascist regime is as strong as it claims, why is it afraid of these people?” Yet another said: “This trial reminds me of another one held 19 centuries ago when Pilate posed the question, ‘What is truth?’” He then made a gesture in the direction of the brothers and said: “These people here are telling us the truth and yet you want to send them to prison; these good people should be highly respected for their faith.” Another lawyer declared: “Although there are 26 of them, they speak as one man because they all have the same Teacher.”—John 18:33-38.

Before the Tribunal, the brothers were courageous and strong, even though some of them had been threatened under questioning and feared they might be given the death sentence. Brother Guerino D’Angelo recalls:
“Only one of our group of 26 let himself be overwhelmed by the fear of man and compromised. He signed a declaration of submission to the Fascist State, which was read out by one of the judges. Nonetheless, he was sentenced just the same. Turning to the brothers, the judge commented: ‘This man is no good to us or to you.’ Afterward, this person left the truth and was one of the very few who did not keep integrity.”
These brothers were condemned to a total of 186 years and 10 months’ imprisonment. The individual sentences ranged from two to 11 years. The ruling of this Tribunal was final and there was no possibility of appeal. The brothers sentenced remained in prison until the Fascist regime fell. They were released, with some exceptions, after August 1943.


The volume entitled Aula IV—Tutti i processi del Tribunale Speciale fascista (Court Room IV—All the Trials of the Fascist Special Tribunal) mentions verdict No. 50 of April 19, 1940, relative to the 26 Jehovah’s Witnesses, commenting as follows:
“A religious movement that originated in the U.S.A. began to spread in Italy. Its followers, called ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses,’ underwent constant persecution from the Fascists. Nevertheless, they continued to proclaim their aversion to the war, refusing to take up arms against their fellowman and considering the Fascist regime a ‘Satanic emanation.’ The greatest wave of arrests took place in the autumn of 1939. (Formation of an association contrary to the national interest; membership of the same; propaganda; insulting the ‘duce’ and the pope.)”
Some idea of the accusations brought against the brothers can be had from the document issued to Sister Pizzato by the Procura del Re (public prosecutor’s office) of Vicenza. She had been sentenced on five counts: “Five years’ imprisonment for associating with a view to political conspiracy; one year’s imprisonment for offending the dignity and prestige of the ‘Duce’ of Fascism, Head of the Government; two years’ imprisonment for offending the Supreme Pontiff; one year’s imprisonment for offending the dignity of the Head of a Foreign State [Hitler] and two years’ imprisonment for offending the prestige of the King and Emperor.”

Since 13 of the 26 accused Witnesses were from the Abruzzi region, the book Abruzzo, un profilo storico (A Historic Outline of the Abruzzi Region), by Raffaele Colapietra (published by Rocco Carabba), declares: “[In the Abruzzi region] no single political party, not even the Communists, can boast a group so numerous and so hard hit as these meek harmless peasants from the coastal area.”

daily text 11/24

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009
"By wisdom a household will be built up, and by discernment it will prove firmly established." (Proverbs 24:3)


Sometimes marriage unites two people who are from different cultural backgrounds. Here especially there is a need to communicate openly. Observing how your marriage mate talks with relatives can help you understand your spouse better. At times, it is not what is said but how it is conveyed that reveals a person’s inner thinking. And much may be learned from what is not said. (Proverbs 16:24; Colossians 4:6) Discernment is vital for happiness. When it comes to choosing hobbies and recreation, many have found it important to be flexible. Before marriage your spouse may have spent time in sports or other recreational pursuits. Would some adjustment now be appropriate? (1 Timothy 4:8) Understandably, a married couple need time so that they can pursue spiritual and other activities together.—Matthew 6:33.
(Watchtower issue: 03/15/08, 2:8, 9)

*There are so many real-life examples of couples who've been put through such extreme circumstances which most married couples will never have to experience, yet their relationship stayed 'solid' due to the fact that they maintained a close relationship with God. And these weren't just 'the usual' culprits that tend to put a strain on a marriage like severe economic problems or ongoing health issues. But things like outright opposition and persecution from family members and in-laws, harassment and ridicule from the local community, fines and restrictions from the authorities, and even long-term separation -having no contact with their children or with each other during periods of imprisonment (that's what many of the brothers and sisters went through in Italy when they were sent to prison, which is mentioned in the yearbook experience I'm gonna post today)
Yet the fact that there have been so many couples who've experienced such extreme hardships like these throughout their marriage, and still managed to maintain such a close bond, gives overwhelming proof that having a regular spiritual routine, and keeping God as 'the center' of your marriage, is the key to making it succeed over the longhaul.