From APD, March 26, 2015:   According to the agenda of a visit by Pope Francis to the Piedmont region of northern Italy scheduled for June 21-22, he will be the first pope to visit a church of the Waldenses. An information release for the news media states that first thing on Monday morning (June 22), the second day of his trip, Pope Francis will meet Waldensian dignitaries in the Protestant church in the city of Turin for 90 minutes.

The plan is that the pope and the Waldensian leaders will pray together the Lord’s Prayer. “This is a gesture of brotherhood in a new ecumenical season,” said Eugenio Bernardini, moderator of the Waldensian governing board.

This Protestant denomination is centered in what are called the Waldensian valleys west of Turin. It was founded by Peter Valdes (or Waldo, a common anglicized form of the name), a merchant from Lyon (France) who lived from 1140 to 1206 and advocated a simple lifestyle of voluntary poverty as well as other reforms. During the Middle Ages, the Waldensians were persecuted as heretics by the Roman Catholic Church.

Ellen G. White, the prolific co-founder of the Adventist denomination, wrote much about the Waldensians in her history of Christianity, The Great Controversy, especially in a section on pages 61-78. She saw them as defenders of the original Christian faith during a time when the established church made many unbiblical changes. She visited the region three times during the years that she lived in Europe (1885-1887).

According to the World Council of Churches, the Waldensian Church is present mainly in Italy as well as in Argentina and Uruguay, and about 25,000 members worldwide. About 21,000 of these are in Italy where the Waldenses merged with the Methodists in 1979. The denomination is known today as the Chiesa Evangelica Valdese (Union of the Methodist and Waldensian Churches).

It is likely that a number of Adventists may have comments on this historic development that has been announced. It is another of many steps that Pope Francis has taken which are understood to symbolize changes of attitude on the part of the Roman Catholic leadership.

APD is the Adventist News Service in Europe. Adventist Today has added to the original bulletin from APD.