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Saturday, 13 October 2018

Table Talks - Anglicanism in Sicily

Community Dinner at St Alberto of Trapani, Randazzo
"Table Talks" was the title given to a programme involving 2 of our congregations in Sicily, St Alberto of Trapani in Randazzo and St George's Taormina. The purpose was to engage the members of the congregations in dialogue about being Anglican in Sicily, especially the challenge associated with being Italian-speaking or bilingual Italian-English Anglicans.

In the Diocese in Europe most of our liturgical and pastoral work is in English, with some exceptions where Anglicans from other parts of the world have brought their own language, such as French, Arabic, Tamil or Malgache. In many places occasioanl offices or pastoral rites such as baptism, confirmation or marriage might be celebrated in English as well as the national language (for example Spanish, German or Dutch) where there is a clear need. But regular liturgical and pastoral work in the national language has not been a routine part of our life, with only a couple of exceptions, in Turkey and Poland.

But now, in parts of Italy, including Sicily, there are communities of Anglicans who are exclusively Italian speaking. Table Talks was one initiative to explore how Anglican identity, lived in the Italian language can be supported and nurtured. It was a particular aspiration of the Table Talks to guide and encourage the ministry of the Italian priest serving in Randazzon, the Revd Giovanni La Rosa.

Four priests assisted as resource persons for these talks: Fr Kevin Morris of St Michael and All Angels, Bedford Park and Fr Fabrizio Pesce of St Peter's Acton Green both from the Diocese of London; Fr Hugo Adán of St Matthew's, Elephant and Castle in the Diocese of Southwark; and Fr Russ Ruffino, a long-serving locum priest in this Diocese, currently covering the vacancy in Holy Cross, Palermo.

Fr Kevin spoke of how he revitalised his parish when he moved there through opening up the church and making it a welcoming place for the entire community, which proved to be key to parish growth and development. Fr Fabrizio spoke of his experience ministering to an Italian speaking, a Spanish speaking, as well as English language congregations in St Peter's. Fr Hugo, originally sponsored from this Diocese, now heads up what is the first completely bilingual parish (Spanish-English) in the Church of England. Their input, as well as that of Fr Russ, a priest from the USA born to Sicilian immigrants, was key to inspiring the thinking of the members of St Alberto's and St George's about ministry in Italy, and especially in Italian. In Taormina participants in our talks included the Revd Jutta Sperber, the German Evangelical Pastor who ministers to German Christians in Sicily, and the Revd Canon John Smith, the locum Chaplain at St George's.

"Table Talks" was a ground-breaking initiative, encouraging reflection by the communities involved on questions of Anglican identity, ministry in a minority context, ecumenical sensitivity and linguistic challenges.

Randazzo lies on the slopes of Mount Etna, only about 15 kilometres from the crater of one of Europe's most active volcanos. During an hour's free time when we visited one of the Roman Catholic Churches in the town we came upon a curious painting of a priest praying with parishioners for the protection of the town from the lava flow from an eruption. On close inspection the priest in the painting looked like our own Fr Russ!

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