After visiting my friend Leonardo De Chirico in Rome, I couldn’t stop telling people about the multiple ways in which God is working through him and the church he serves—cultivating a city-wide church planting initiative, caring for refugees, and offering a compelling example of warm-hearted gospel service. I asked Leo if he would provide an overview of the ministry, which he has done in the following. When you think of Rome, please pray for the De Chirico’s.
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Rome is known as Caput Mundi (Capital of the world), la Città Eterna (The Eternal City), Limen Apostolorum (Threshold of the Apostles), the city of the seven hills or simply l’Urbe (The City). Ancient Rome was a major center of Western civilization, and Rome is still the seat of the Roman Catholic Church which controls the Vatican City as its sovereign territory, an enclave of Rome.
Today, Rome is modern and cosmopolitan with more than 2.7 million residents. The metropolitan area has a population of about 4 million. It is the third most-visited tourist destination in the EU and a city of cultural and political importance. It hosts the head offices of the vast majority of the major Italian companies, as well as the headquarters of three of the world’s 100 largest companies.
Tourism is inevitably one of Rome’s chief industries, with numerous notable museums. Rome is also the hub of the Italian film industry, thanks to the Cinecittà studios. The city is also a center for banking as well as electronics and aerospace industries. Numerous international headquarters, university campuses, government ministries, conference centers, sports venues and museums are located in Rome’s principal business districts.
Rome exercises three main influences on the whole of Italy in the areas of politics, media, and cultural institutions. With a courageous Gospel witness in the city, there is potential to have a Gospel transformative influence on the ethos of the whole country.
Rome, the Vatican and Gospel Witness
As a city, Rome has unique features. The city is the capital of two states: Italy and the Vatican. It is also the major center of the Roman Catholic Church which has a universal outlook and project. Being in Rome means to confront and being confronted with the system of Roman Catholicism, i.e. a combination of truth and error, Bible and tradition, faith and superstition, folk religion and highly sophisticated theology, spiritual and material interests.
In Rome the power of Roman Catholicism is evident everywhere. At times it is intimidating. It blends cultural, economic, political dimensions. The lives of the majority of people are connected with it and depend on it because a high percentage of the city economy is run by the Vatican. So Gospel witness has to deal with this powerful system and cannot be superficial in its analysis and vision.
Traditionally, the Roman Catholic Church in Rome has fought against the spread of the Gospel by Evangelicals. Because of the presence of the pope, the idea was to build a “heresy-free zone” around the major institutions of the church. Since 1870 Protestant churches have been planted. Unfortunately, most of them are now liberal in their theology and with very little Gospel impact. After the Second World War, Evangelical churches have been planted mainly in the outskirts of the city. The “heresy-free zone” was still unconsciounsly accepted by Evangelicals. Another reason for leaving the city center out was the cultural challenge of the witness that they were not willing to take. So it was better for them to be in a sort of “ghetto”.
It is now time radically to revisit this approach and to relaunch the vision for a Reformed Church in Rome. It is now time to reclaim Rome for the Gospel in spite of the powers which dominate it. It is also time for Italy to have a church in the Capital city which may have symbolic significance for the whole of the country. It will be a living message that the Gospel is still the power of God unto salvation, encouraging Italian churches to live out the Good news and modeling for them a Gospel-centered and outward looking church. Moreover, a Reformed Church in Rome will be a benefit for the international Evangelical community in their dealings with Roman Catholicism. Roman Catholicism has become a matter of theological confusion amongst Evangelicals and the project will help them to understand it and to relate to it in the long run.
Our Project for Rome
The project is to plant a reformed church in Rome city center:
- confessionally reformed,
- highly evangelistic,
- devoted to expository preaching,
- culturally-oriented and discipleship focused,
- with a nation-wide transformative influence.
The church plant will be in partnership with CERBI churches (Evangelical Reformed Baptist Churches in Italy, www.cerbi.it) and Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York. Part of the project entails the launching of a Rome branch of IFED, an Italian Reformed training center based in Padova (www.ifeditalia.org).
Leonardo (44), Valeria, Filippo (15) and Akille (14) De Chirico moved to Rome in 2009.
The Evangelical Church Breccia di Roma was established in 2010 and exists to glorify God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, living the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a community of disciples and serving kingly, priestly and prophetically the city of Rome (and through it the nation of Italy) so that the Word of God may have a breakthrough to transform it.
The final goal is … the glory of God
The propelling centre is … the gospel of Jesus Christ
The community envisaged is … a church of disciples
The scopes of action are …
· … A kingly service to encourage responsibility
· … A priestly service to bless the neighbour and the city
· … A prophetic service to proclaim the Word of God
The ‘glocal’ borders are … the city of Rome and Italy
The final hope is … the transformation of the city according to the Gospel
Breccia (English: breach) is used in the Bible (especially the OT) to indicate the opening of a door in a city fortress. We pray that God will be pleased to open a significant door in this needy town, allowing the gospel to go forth (Colossians 4:2-4). It also evokes the event in Italian history (20th September 1870) when the Italian army made a “breach” in the city walls (governed at the time by the pope) and reduced the pontifical state to its present-day dimensions. We pray that God will be pleased to use the church to confront the powers of the city with the claims of the gospel.
The Church Breccia di Roma regularly meets in Via IV Novembre 107 in a centrally located church hall owned by a Protestant church. The website is www.brecciadiroma.it
Since 1997 we have been involved in church planting and then pastoring a church in Ferrara, where we live at the moment. The church has now its own leadership so that we are free to move forward.
Leonardo is also Adjunct Director of Istituto di Formazione Evangelica e Documentazione (address: IFED, Via P.M. Vermigli 13, 35132 Padova – Italy and editor of its theological journal, Studi di teologia. He is also vice-chairman of the Italian Evangelical Alliance (branch of the World Evangelical Alliance), an umbrella organization representing most Italian Evangelicals.
He holds degrees in History (University of Bologna, 1993), Theology (University of Glamorgan, UK, 1996) and Bioethics (University of Padova, 2003). His PhD in Theology is from King’s College, London, 2003 and was subsequently published as Evangelical Theological Perspectives on Post-Vatican II Roman Catholicism (Bern-Frankfurt-Oxford: Peter Lang 2003). He has published extensively on Roman Catholic theology from a Reformed perspective as well as on Evangelical-Roman Catholic relationships.
01 Dec 2009 by RedeemerCTC
Leonardo de Chirico – who is planting a church in central Rome and emerging as a church planting network leader in Europe – answered a few questions for us as he prepares for the official launch of his church.
Q. Where are you from and what led you to ministry in Rome?
Leonardo: I became a Christian as a teenager, coming from a traditional Catholic family. I felt a call to Christian ministry that was confirmed by the local church over several years. My original plan was to be a missionary tent-maker in the Horn of Africa. But the Lord changed the direction and called me to serve Him in Italy.
After marrying my wife Valeria and going to theological college in the UK, I was called to start a church planting project in the north-east Italian town of Ferrara in 1997.
As my ministry broadened in scope, I realized that the city of Rome was crucial in order to see gospel transformation throughout the entire country of Italy. That growing sense was also shared by our national network of churches and by Redeemer. We saw the providential hand of God in calling a new pastor for the church in Ferrara that I had planted so that we could be released to move to Rome during the summer of 2009.
Q. What is your vision for the work you are doing in Rome, and what do you hope will be accomplished in the next 10 years or so?
Leonardo: I think that the mission statement of our church plant captures it well: The church Breccia di Roma exists to glorify God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, living the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a community of disciples and serving kingly, priestly and prophetically the city of Rome (and through it the nation of Italy) so that the Word of God can break through and transform it.
The vision is to start from Rome to reach the nation, to start from a church to mobilize and expand a movement, and to live the gospel to see transformation.
Q. You are church planting in what could be called the most religious city in the world, yet many would say it is among the least believing when it comes to the kind of historic Christian belief we see in the New Testament. Do you agree with that statement and, if so, what challenges does that bring?
Leonardo: Rome is a unique city in many ways. We singled out four main idols that we will address: the ‘pax romana’ (the old arrogance and pride stemming from the time of the Roman Empire); the ‘catholica’ (the imperial claims of the Roman Catholic Church); the ‘palazzo’ ("palace" – meaning the twisted ways of the political power – Rome is the political center of the country); and the ‘dolce vita’ (the sinful "sweet life" that makes Rome famous). Peoples lives are dominated by these idols and our battle will be against them as we preach the life changing message of the gospel.
Q. What are you seeking from God as you pursue His work there and what might you need from others?
Leonardo: We decided that the church will be called: Breccia di Roma Chiesa Evangelica (Breach of Rome Evangelical Church). Breccia (English: breach) is used in the Bible (especially the OT) to indicate the opening of a door in a city fortress. We pray that God will be pleased to open a significant door in this needy town, allowing the gospel to go forth (Colossians 4:2-4).
The word "breccia" also evokes an event in Italian history (September 20, 1870) when the Italian army made a "breach" in the city walls (then governed by the pope) and reduced the pontifical state to its present-day dimensions. We pray that God will be pleased to use the church to reach the city with the claims of the Gospel.
So we need global prayers to see the work taking off. As the work expands we would also need coworkers and supporters for this long-term enterprise.
by Leonardo & Valeria De Chirico
via Ergisto Bezzi 34
00153 Roma – Italy