Americans tend to think of Italy as a vacation destination, not a mission field. It is a country rich in history, culture, and cuisine. It is the land of the ancient Romans, the birthplace of the Renaissance, and the fashion capital of the world. But when it comes to the gospel, Italy is impoverished and bleak.
Christianity played a prominent role in Italy’s past. Beautiful church buildings and cathedrals still dot the horizon throughout the country. Today, however, one is hard-pressed to find a church that preaches God’s Word faithfully. Sadly, there are no Reformed or Presbyterian denominations in Italy. Unlike European countries such as Germany, Switzerland and England, Italy did not enjoy the light of the Reformation beyond the first half of the sixteenth century. Although the Reformation thrived in Italy during the 1520s and 1530s, it was crushed by the Roman Inquisition in 1542.
Since that time, the country has languished under Roman Catholicism. Today, more than 70% of Italy’s population is nominally Roman Catholic and with no understanding of the gospel. The rest of the population is a mixture of paganism, Pentecostalism, and Islam. Less than 1% of the population identifies as Protestant. Consequently, Italy is a spiritually dark place to live.
To put this situation in perspective, consider this comparison between it and the state of California:
ESTABLISHED CONFESSIONAL CHURCH
ESTABLISHED NAPARC CHURCHES (URCNA, OPC, PCA, RCUS, etc.)
As you can see, these numbers are terribly out of balance. If biblical Christianity is to survive in Italy, we need to plant churches that preach the gospel boldly, administer the sacraments faithfully, and provide pastoral care to Christ’s sheep. We need to leave something solid for the next generation. Our long-term goal, therefore, is to establish a healthy, indigenous denomination of Reformed churches in Italy: le Chiese Riformate in Italia (CRI). In the short-term, we are tending to the churches in Milan and Perugia with Christ’s means of grace to build them up in grace and knowledge.