Protestantism in Italy
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The oldest of Italy's Protestant churches, the Waldensian Evangelical Church, is a pre-Lutheran Protestant denomination, which then adopted Calvinist theology. Their traditional stronghold is a cluster of Alpine valleys in Western Piedmont. Since 1975 the Waldensians form a united church with the Italian Methodist Church, who have traditionally had a non-episcopal polity.
The Protestant Reformation in Italy began at the end of the 15th century, and quickly collapsed at the beginning of the 17th century. Its development was hindered by stern repression by the Papal Inquisition.
On 17 February 1848, Charles Albert, king of Piedmont-Sardinia, granted religious freedom and civic emancipation to the Waldenses. Freedom of worship, and equality of civic and political rights were later extended to Jews, and to the other Italian states that were progressively annexed to Piedmont-Sardinia during the process of unification of Italy. Newer Waldensian congregation sprung up as well as the Italian Christian Free Churches (which lasted from 1852 to 1904) and the Italian Church of the Brethren. Meanwhile British and American missionaries began to preach and plant Anglican, Baptists, and Methodist churches.
In the early twentieth century, lay missionaries spread the Pentecostal religion throughout the country. Nowadays, most of those resulting Pentecostal congregations belongs to the Assemblies of God in Italy, the Pentecostal Christian Congregations, the Italian Pentecostal Christian Churches, the Apostolic Church in Italy, and other smaller groups.
The Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy (FCEI), formed in 1967, comprises all the historical Protestant churches of Italy (including the Waldensians and Methodists, the Lutheran Evangelical Church in Italy, the Baptist Evangelical Christian Union of Italy, and some minor churches), plus two observer members with a large following (the Federation of Pentecostal Churches and the Italian Union of Seventh-Day Adventist Christian Churches).