Over the years I have been asked what makes ministry in Verona so challenging. First of all, any missionary in Italy will have major resistance to the Gospel. Verona in particular, however, has a reputation for being very difficult. I would guess all the regions of Italy share the following three characteristics:
1. Universal salvation – many Italians believe that since Christ died for the sins of the world that everyone in the world is already assured of heaven (thus there is no motive for biblical salvation).
2. Religious pluralism – many Italians believe that no religion is 100% true and that a person’s faith is reflective of their particular culture’s interpretation of who God is (again, no motive for biblical salvation).
3. Catholicism – Verona is considered one of the most staunchly Catholic cities in one of the most staunchly Catholic regions of Italy. In fact, the Catholic extremists Opus Dei are very active in Verona. I can’t recall a single person that I have spoken with that can explain their faith. The reply is usually, “I don’t know, it’s my tradition” or “it’s what my priest says” or “The Pope says there is no hell” (again, no motive for biblical salvation).
In addition, the people of Verona (admitted by the people of Verona) are very closed (of course there are exceptions). The exact reason for this I cannot say. Perhaps it’s because Verona has been invaded practically since its founding. Maybe it’s because it is a wealthier city and there is a premium on materialism and status. Fascism is also strongly rooted in the city. Racism is also prevalent here. Once, while Sandy was walking downtown with a friend, they stopped in front of the bishop’s house and her friend said, “I can’t imagine how difficult it is for you here as missionaries. The people of Verona are very closed to anything but Catholicism. The people of Bologna are communist leaning but they are much more open. Even the people of Padova (a nearby city) are more open to talking and discussing new ideas. Verona (shakes her head)… it’s impossible.” We are fully persuaded, however, that with God nothing is impossible!