Excitement has been building for months across churches in Rome and surrounding areas.
From Milan in the north to Naples in the south, Italian pastors and fellow Christians are planning to attend the Noi Festival Roma with Franklin Graham on November 4–5. More than 160 buses will bring an estimated 9,400 people, including many who may not personally know Jesus Christ but were invited by a church member.
Enthusiasm to share the Gospel in the “eternal city” has been building since last October’s Noi Festival—the first evangelistic event of its kind in Milan.
This week, the free, family-friendly outreach at Palazzo dello Sport—Roma will feature a Gospel message from Franklin Graham, along with music from Kari Jobe on November 4 and Michael W. Smith on November 5.
Pastors are extremely encouraged, said Scott Lenning, executive Festival director for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA).
“We’ve had 10 of what we call ‘PPP events—Pastors, Prayer, and Pizza,’” he said. These events brought together leaders from various denominations to hear how their churches could get involved, from participating in evangelism training to inviting nonbelievers to the Festival.
A Rome prayer rally drew more than 300 people to pray together for this outreach, and 2,700 students attended youth prayer and worship rallies in Naples and Rome.
Lenning has been especially encouraged by how God is unifying believers in a city where evangelical churches have long been divided. They’re putting aside differences for a common goal of sharing the Gospel, he explained, with pastors calling it “historic.”
Many of those churches became familiar with BGEA at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic when Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains ministered at a Samaritan’s Purse Emergency Field Hospital in Cremona, Italy. With many elderly citizens, northern Italy became the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in Europe.
In addition to last year’s Noi Festival in Milan, Franklin Graham filmed “The New Birth” Easter special just outside Rome’s Colosseum this spring. The half-hour program premiered in multiple languages around the world on Easter Sunday.
‘It’s Astonishing, It’s Wonderful’
At his high-end fashion warehouse job in Rome, Carmelo D’Amico’s co-workers know he’s available if they need prayer or have questions about the Bible. The 62-year-old deacon is inviting many of them to the Noi Festival, and he knows some are planning to come.
D’Amico recently led the BGEA’s Christian Life and Witness Course (CLWC) at his church, which was attended by people from different denominations. “We have the Holy Word that guides us all together,” he said.
Around Italy, more than 1,400 people attended CLWC trainings designed to help believers strengthen their faith and share it with others.
In his spare time, D’Amico often darts through Rome on his motorcycle to share his faith or meet with other Christians who have a passion for the Gospel. Prior to last year’s Noi Festival, however, collaboration between denominations was scarce, he said.
“We fight about how to serve communion, how to pray—on our knees or standing up; clapping hands or not; to use music during the service or not,” he said. “We fight about that but don’t recognize that 95% of our spiritual life is the same.”
That’s changed in the past year, though, he said, brimming with anticipation for what God will do through this new unity.
“The Noi Festival is the first time in the Italian story that all denominations, all people in the churches [are working] together,” D’Amico said.
“Not in my lifetime of memories, not in my father’s lifetime, and not in my grandmother’s lifetime have I seen this kind of unity in the Rome churches.
“It’s astonishing, it’s wonderful, and it’s a miracle.”