by Maria G. Buscema

First Issue of La Vedetta di Sion, October 1, 1903,
Italian edition of Zion’s Watch Tower

Among the new religious movements coming from the United States of America are the Jehovah’s Witnesses, which have about 8.6 million followers in the world and about 250,000 followers in Italy. Active in Italy since the early twentieth century, the movement was hindered in its activities by the fascist government; but following the victory of the Allies and as a result of the Law of June 18, 1949, no. 385, which ratified the Treaty of Friendship, Trade and Navigation between the US government and that of Alcide De Gasperi, Jehovah’s Witnesses, like other non-Catholic religious bodies, obtained legal recognition as legal entities based in the United States.

  1. The origins of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Ita. Testimoni di Geova, henceforth JW), Christian denomination theocratic, millennial and restorationist, or “primitivist”, convinced that Christianity must be restored along the lines of what is known about early apostolic church, date back to 1879, when Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916), a businessman from Pittsburgh, after attending the Second Adventists, began publishing the magazine Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence in July of that year. He founded in 1884 Zion’s Watch Tower and Tract Society,[1] incorporated in Pennsylvania, which in 1896 became Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, Inc. or Watchtower Society (which JWs familiarly call “The Society” or “The Jehovah’s organization”), the main legal entity used by the JW leadership to expand the work around the world.[2] Within ten years, the small Bible study group, which initially did not have a specific name (to avoid denominationalism they will prefer the simple “Christians”), then called itself “Bible Students,” grew, giving rise to dozens of congregations that were supplied with religious literature by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, which in 1909 moved its headquarters to Brooklyn, New York, while today it is in Warwick, New York. The name “Jehovah’s Witnesses” was adopted in 1931 by Russell’s successor, Joseph Franklin Rutherford.[3]

JWs claim to base their beliefs on the Bible, for them the inspired and inerrant Word of Jehovah. Their theology includes the doctrine of “progressive revelation” which allows the leadership, the Governing Body, to change biblical interpretations and doctrines frequently.[4] For example, JWs are known for millennialism and preaching the impending end from house to house. (announces in the journals The Watchtower, Awake!, books published by the Watchtower Society and articles and videos posted on the organization’s official website,, etc.), and for years they have achieved that the present “system of things” would end before all members of the generation alive in 1914 died. the end, marked by battle of Armageddon, he is still close, no longer claiming that he must fall within the 1914.[5] pushes them to estrange themselves in a sectarian way from the society doomed to destruction in Armagedon, they are anti-Trinitarian, conditionalists (does not convince the immortality of the soul), they do not observe the holidays Christians, caring of pagan origin, and attribute the essence of salvation to the name of God, “Jehovah.” Despite these peculiarities, the more than 8.6 million JWs in the world cannot s are not classified as an American religion.

As explained by prof. Mr. James Penton,

Jehovah’s Witnesses have grown out of the religious environment of late nineteenth-century American Protestantism. Although they may seem remarkably different from mainline Protestants and reject certain central doctrines of the great churches, in a real sense they are the American heirs of Adventism, the prophetic movements within nineteenth-century British and American Evangelicalism, and the millenarianism of both seventeenth-century Anglicanism and English Protestant nonconformity. There is, in fact, very little about their doctrinal system which is outside the broad Anglo-American Protestant tradition, although there are certain concepts which they hold more in common with Catholicism than Protestantism. If they are unique in many ways – as they undoubtedly are – it is simply because of the particular theological combinations and permutations of their doctrines rather than because of their novelty.[6]

The propagation of the movement throughout the world will follow dynamics linked in part to missionary activity, but in part to the main geopolitical events in the world, such as the Second World War and the victory of the Allies. This is the case in Italy, even if the group has been present since the early twentieth century.

  1. The peculiarity of the genesis of the JWs in Italy is that their development was promoted by personalities outside the Watch Tower Society. The founder, Charles T. Russell, arrived in Italy in 1891 during a European tour and, according to the leaders of the movement, would have stopped in Pinerolo, in the Waldensian valleys, arousing the interest of Daniele Rivoir, an English teacher of the Waldensian faith. But the existence of a stop in Pinerolo – which seems to confirm the thesis that the American leadership, like other American confessions, had fallen victim to the “Waldensian myth”, that is, the theory that turned out to be false according to which it was easier to convert Waldensians into Italy rather than Catholics, concentrating their missions around Pinerolo and the city of Torre Pellice –,[7] is questioned on the basis of an examination of the documents of the time relating to the pastor’s European journey in 1891 (which mention Brindisi, Naples, Pompeii, Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan, but not Pinerolo and not even Turin),[8] and also the subsequent trips that interested Italy (1910 and 1912) do not present passages either in Pinerolo or in Turin, being an oral tradition without documentary basis, however, made official by the historian, and JWs elder, Paolo Piccioli in an article published in 2000 in the Bollettino della Società di Studi Valdesi (the Bulletin of the Society of Waldensian Studies), a Protestant historiographical magazine, and in other writings, published by both the Watchtower and publishers outside the movement.[9]

Certainly Rivoir, through Adolf Erwin Weber, a Swiss Russellite preacher and former pastor’s gardener, enthusiastic about Russell’s millenarian theses but not willing to abjure the Waldensian faith, will obtain permission to translate the writings, and in 1903 the first volume of Russell’s Studies on the Scriptures, i.e. Il Divin Piano delle Età (The Divine Plan of the Ages), while in 1904 the first Italian issue of Zion’s Watch Tower was released, entitled La Vedetta di Sion e l’Araldo della presenza di Cristo, or more simply La Vedetta di Sion, distributed in local newsstands.[10]

In 1908 the first congregation was formed in Pinerolo, and given that today’s rigid centralization was not in force among the affiliates of the Watchtower Society – in accordance with certain reflections of “Pastor” Russell –,[11] the Italians will use the name “Bible Students” only from 1915 onwards. In the first issues of the La Vedetta di Sion, the Italian associates of the Watch Tower used, to identify their brotherhood, rather vague names with an evident “primitivist” flavor in harmony with the Russellian writings of 1882-1884 which saw denominationalism as the antechamber of sectarianism, names such as “Church”, “Christian Church”, “Church of the Little Flock and of Believers” or, even, “Evangelical Church”.[12] In 1808, Clara Lanteret, in Chantelain (widow), in a long letter defined the Italian associates of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, to which she belonged, as the “Readers of the AURORA and the TORRE”. He wrote: “May God grant all of us to be frank and open in our testimony of the present truth and to joyfully unfold our banner. May he give all the readers of the Dawn and the Tower to rejoice ceaselessly in the Lord who desires our joy to be perfect and not allow anyone to take it away from us”.[13] Two years later, in 1910, in another long letter, Lanteret spoke only in vague terms of “Pastor” Russell’s message as “light” or “precious truths”: “I have the joy of announcing that an elderly pastor a long-retired Baptist, Mr. M., following frequent discussions with the two of us (Fanny Lugli and I) enters fully into the light and joyfully accepts the precious truths that God has seen fit to reveal to us through his dear and faithful servant Russell”.[14] The same year, in a letter of resignation written in May 1910 by four members of the Waldensian Evangelical Church, namely Henriette Bounous, Francois Soulier, Henry Bouchard and Luoise Vincon Rivoir, none, except Bouchard who used the term “Church of Christ “, he used no name to define the new Christian denomination, and also the Consistory of the Waldensian Church, in taking note of the defection from the Waldensian congregation of the group that had espoused the millenarian doctrines of the “Pastor”Russell, did not use any precise denomination in the sentence, even confusing them with members of other churches:” The President later reads the letters he wrote in the name of the Consistory to those individuals who for a long time or recently, who for two years, they left the Waldensian church to join Darbysti, or to found a new sect. (…) While Louise Vincon Rivoire has passed to the Baptists in a definitive way “.[15] Exponents of the Catholic Church will confuse the followers of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, until the beginning of the First World War, with Protestantism or Valdism[16] or , like some Waldensian periodicals, which will give space to the movement, with its leader, Charles Taze Russell, pushing in 1916 the Italian representatives, in a leaflet, to identify themselves with the “Associazione Internazionale degli Studenti Biblici”.[17]

In 1914 the group will suffer – like all the Russellite communities in the world – the disappointment of the failure to be kidnapped in heaven, which will lead the movement, which had reached about forty followers concentrated mainly in the Waldensian valleys, to descend by only fifteen members. In fact, as reported in the 1983 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses (1983 English Edition):

In 1914 some Bible Students, as Jehovah’s Witnesses were then called, expected to “be caught away in clouds to meet the Lord in the air” and believed that their earthly preaching work had come to an end. (1 Thess. 4:17) An existing account relates: “One day, some of them went out to an isolated place to wait for the event to take place. However, when nothing happened, they were obliged to go back home again in a very downcast frame of mind. As a result, a number of these ones fell away from the faith.”

About 15 persons remained faithful, continuing to attend the meetings and to study the Society’s publications. Commenting on that period, Brother Remigio Cuminetti said: “Instead of the expected crown of glory, we received a stout pair of boots to carry on the preaching work.”[18]

The group will jump to the headlines because one of the very few conscientious objectors for religious reasons during the First World War, Remigio Cuminetti, was a follower of the Watchtower. Cuminetti, born in 1890 in Piscina, near Pinerolo, in the province of Turin, showed a “fervent religious devotion” as a boy, but only after reading the work of Charles Taze Russell, Il Divin Piano delle Età, finds its authentic spiritual dimension, which he had vainly sought in the “liturgical practices” of the church of Rome.[19] The detachment from Catholicism led him to join the Bible Students of Pinerolo, thus starting his personal path of preaching.

At the outbreak of the First World War, Remigio worked at the assembly line of the Riv mechanical workshops, in Villar Perosa, in the province of Turin. The company, which produces ball bearings, is declared by the Italian government as auxiliary of war and consequently, Martellini writes, “the militarization of the workers” is imposed: “the workers are (…) put on a bracelet with the identification of the army Italian which effectively sanctions their hierarchical subordination to the military authorities, but at the same time they are granted permanent exemption from active military service”.[20] For many young people this is an advantageous expedient to escape the front, but not for Cuminetti who, in compliance with biblical indications, knows that he does not have to collaborate, in any form, in the preparation of war. The young Bible Student  therefore decides to resign and, promptly, a few months later, receives the precept card to go to the front.

Refusing to wear the uniform opens the trial for Cuminetti at the Military Court of Alexandria, which – as Alberto Bertone writes – in the text of the sentence makes clear reference to the “reasons of conscience adduced by the objector:” He refused, saying that the faith of Christ has as its foundation peace among men, universal brotherhood, which (…) as a convinced believer in that faith could not and did not want to wear a uniform that is a symbol of war and that is the killing of brothers (as he called the enemies of the fatherland)”.[21] Following the sentence, the human story of Cuminetti knows “the usual tour of the prisons” of Gaeta, Regina Coeli and Piacenza, internment in the asylum of Reggio Emilia and numerous attempts to reduce him to obedience, following which, decides to “enter the military health corps as a casualty carrier”,[22] doing in fact what, subsequently, will be forbidden to every young JW, or a substitute service to the militar – and being awarded a silver medal for military valor, which Cuminetti refused having done all this for “Christian love” –, which will subsequently be forbidden until 1995. After the war, Cuminetti resumed preaching, but with the advent of fascism, the Jehovah’s Witness, subjected to the diligent attention of the OVRA, was forced to operate in a clandestine regime. He died in Turin on January 18, 1939.

  1. In the 1920s, the work in Italy received new impetus from the return home of numerous emigrants who had joined the cult in the United States, and small communities of JWs spread to various provinces such as Sondrio, Aosta, Ravenna, Vincenza, Trento, Benevento, Avellino, Foggia, L’Aquila, Pescara and Teramo, however, as in 1914, with the disappointment relative to 1925, the work undergoes a further slowdown.[23]

During Fascism, even for the type of message preached, the believers of the cult (like those of other non-Catholic religious confessions) were persecuted. The Mussolini’s regime considered the followers of the Watchtower Society among “the most dangerous fanatics.”[24] But it was not an Italian peculiarity: the Rutherford years were marked not only by the adoption of the name “Jehovah’s witnesses”, but by the introduction of a hierarchical organizational form and a standardization of practices in the various congregations still in force today – called “Theocracy” –, as well as a growing tension between the Watch Tower Society and the surrounding world, which will lead the sect to be persecuted not only by the Fascist and National Socialist regimes, but also by the Marxist and Liberal Democratic ones.[25]

Regarding the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses by the fascist dictatorship of Benito Mussolini, the Watchtower Society, the Annuario dei Testimoni di Geova del 1983, on page 162 of Italian edition, reports that “some exponents of the Catholic clergy contributed decisively to unleashing the fascist persecution against witnesses of Jehovah.” But the historian Giorgio Rochat, of Protestant faith and notoriously anti-fascist, reports that:

In fact, one cannot speak of a generalized and continued anti-protestant offensive by the structures basic Catholics, who, while certainly condemning the very existence of evangelical churches, they had different behaviors in relation to at least four main variables: the regional environment (…); the different degree of aggressiveness and success of evangelical preaching; the choices of individuals parish priests and local leaders (…); and finally the availability of the basic state and fascist authorities.[26]

Rochat reports that as regards the “great roundup of the O.V.R.A.” between the late 1939 and early 1940, “the unusual absence of Catholic interference and pressure in the whole investigation, confirming the low incidence of Jehovah’s Witnesses in local situations and characterization policy given to their repression”.[27] There were obviously pressure from the Church and bishops against all non-Catholic Christian cults (and not only against the very few followers of the Watchtower, about 150 throughout Italy), but in the case of the Witnesses, they were also due to provocations explicit by preachers. In fact, since 1924, a pamphlet entitled L’Ecclesiasticismo in istato d’accusa (the Italian edition of tract Ecclesiastics Indicted, the indictment read at the 1924 Columbus, Ohio, convention) according to the Yearbook of 1983, on p. 130, “a terrible condemnation” for the clergy Catholic, 100,000 copies were distributed in Italy and the Witnesses did their utmost to ensure that the Pope and the Vatican rarities received one copy each. Remigio Cuminetti, responsible for the Company’s work, in a letter to Joseph F. Rutherford, published in La Torre di Guardia (Italian edition) November 1925, pp. 174, 175, writes about the anticlerical pamphlet:

We can say that everything went well in proportion to the” black “[ie Catholic, ed] environment in which we live; in two places only near Rome and in a city on the Adriatic coast our brothers were stopped and that the sheets that were found for him were seized, because the law requires a permit with payment to distribute any publication, while we have not sought any permission knowing we have that of the Supreme Authority [ie Jehovah and Jesus, through the Watchtower, ed]. They produced astonishment, surprise, exclamations, and above all irritation among the clergy and allies, but as far as we know, none dared to publish a word against it, and from here we can see more that the accusation is right.

No publication ever had a greater circulation in Italy, however we recognize that it still is insufficient. In Rome it would have been necessary to bring it back in large quantities to make it known in this holy year [Cuminetti refers to the Jubilee of the Catholic Church in 1925, ed.] who is the holy father and the most reverend clergy, but for this we were not supported by the European Central Office [of the Watchtower, ed] to which the proposition had been advanced since last January. Perhaps the time is not yet of the Lord.

The intent of the campaign, therefore, was provocative, and was not limited to the preaching of the Bible, but tended to attack Catholics, precisely in the city of Rome, where the pope is, when there it was the Jubilee, for Catholics the year of the forgiveness of sins, reconciliation, conversion and penance sacramental, an act which is neither respectful nor cautious to distribute, and which seemed to be made on purpose to attract persecution upon oneself, given that the purpose of the campaign was, according to Cuminetti, to “make known in this holy year who is the holy father and the most reverend clergy”.

In Italy, at least since 1927-1928, perceiving that of the JWs as a US confession that could disrupt the integrity of the Kingdom of Italy, the police authorities collected information on the cult abroad through the network of embassies.[28] As part of these investigations, both the world headquarters of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania in Brooklyn and the Berne branch, which supervised, until 1946, the work of the JWs in Italy, were visited by emissaries of the Fascist police.[29]

In Italy, all those who received publications of the congregation will be registered and in 1930 the introduction on Italian territory of the magazine Consolation (later Awake!) Was prohibited. In 1932 a clandestine office of the Watch Tower was opened in Milan, near Switzerland, to coordinate the small communities, which despite the prohibitions did not cease to act: to make the Italian dictator go on a rampage were the reports of the OVRA in which it was reported that the JWs considered “the Duce and Fascism emanations of the Devil”. The organization’s publications, in fact, rather than merely preaching the Gospel of Christ spread attacks on the Mussolini regime written in the United States not unlike those of the anti-fascist parties, defining Mussolini as a puppet of the Catholic clergy and the regime as “clerical-fascist”, which confirms that Rutherford did not know the Italian political situation, the nature of Fascism and the frictions with Catholicism, speaking in clichés:

It is said that Mussolini does not trust anyone, that he has no true friend, that he never forgives an enemy. Fearing that he will lose control over the people, he holds out relentlessly. (…) Mussolini’s ambition is to become a great warlord and to rule the whole world by force. The Roman Catholic organization, working in agreement with him, supports his ambition. When he waged the war of conquest against the poor Negroes of Abyssinia, during which thousands of human lives were sacrificed, the pope and the Catholic organization backed him, and “blessed” his deadly weapons. Today the dictator of Italy tries to force men and women to procreate bestially, in order to produce in large quantities of men to be sacrificed in future wars and in this too he is supported by the pope. (…) It was the leader of the fascists, Mussolini, who during the world war opposed the papacy being recognized as a temporary power, and it was the same one who provided in 1929 for the pope to regain temporal power, from then on not it was more heard that the pope was looking for a seat in the League of Nations, and this because he adopted a shrewd policy, obtaining a seat on the back of the whole “beast” and the whole conga is prone at his feet, ready to kiss his finger foot thumb.[30]

On pp. 189 and 296 of the same book Rutherford even ventured into investigations worthy of the best spy-stories: “The United States Government has a Director General of the Post Office who is Roman Catholic and is, in reality, an agent and representative of the Vatican (…) A Vatican agent is a dictatorial censor of films of the cinema, and he approves of the shows that magnify the Catholic system, the relaxed conduct among the sexes and many other crimes.” For Rutherford, Pope Pius XI was the puppeteer who moved the strings by manipulating Hitler and Mussolini! The Rutherfordian delusion of omnipotence reaches its climax when it is stated, on p. 299, that “The Kingdom (…) proclaimed by Jehovah’s Witnesses, is the only thing that is today really feared by the Roman Catholic Hierarchy.” In the booklet Fascismo o libertà (Fascism or freedom), of 1939, on pages 23, 24 and 30, it is reported that:

Is it bad to publish the truth about a bunch of criminals who rob people?” No! And then, perhaps it is bad to publish the truth about a religious organization [the Catholic one] who works hypocritically in the same way? […] The Fascist and Nazi dictators, with help and cooperation of the Roman Catholic hierarchy nestled in the Vatican City, are bringing down continental Europe. They will also be able, for a short time, to take control of the British Empire and America, but then, according to what God Himself has declared, He will intervene and through Christ Jesus … He will annihilate totally all these organizations.

Rutherford will come to predict the victory of the Nazi-Fascists over the Anglo-Americans with the help of the Catholic Church! With phrases of this type, translated from texts written in the United States and perceived by the regime as a foreign interference, the repression will begin: on the proposals for assignment to confinement and on other punitive proposals, the stamp was found with the phrase “I took orders by himself the Head of Government” or “I took orders from the Duce”, with the initials of the Chief of Police Arturo Bocchini as a sign of approval of the proposal. Mussolini then directly followed all the repression work, and charged the OVRA, to coordinate the investigations on the Italian JWs. The great hunt, which involved carabinieri and police, took place after circular letter no. 441/027713 of August 22, 1939 entitled «Sette religiose dei “Pentecostali” ed altre» (“Sects religious of the “Pentecostals” and others”) which will prompt the police to include them among the sects that “they go beyond the strictly religious field and enter the political field and must therefore be considered on a par with subversive political parties, of which indeed, for some manifestations and under certain aspects, are much more dangerous, since, acting on the religious sentiment of individuals, which it is much deeper than political sentiment, they push them to a true fanaticism, almost always refractory to any reasoning and provision.”

Within weeks, about 300 people were questioned, including individuals who only subscribed to the Watchtower. About 150 men and women were arrested and sentenced, including 26 held the most responsible, referred to the Special Court, to imprisonment from a minimum of 2 years to a maximum of 11, for a total of 186 years and 10 months (sentence no. 50 of April 19, 1940), although initially the fascist authorities confused the JWs with the Pentecostals, also persecuted by the regime: “All the pamphlets so far seized from the followers of the ‘Pentecostals’ sect are translations of American publications, of which almost always the author a certain JF Rutherford”.[31]

Another ministerial circular, no. 441/02977 of March 3, 1940, recognized the victims by name from the title: «Setta religiosa dei ‘Testimoni di Geova’ o ‘Studenti della Bibbia’ e altre sette religiose i cui principi sono in contrasto con la nostra istituzione» (“Religious sect of ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ or ‘Bible Students’ and other religious sects whose principles conflict with our institution”). The ministerial circular spoke of the: “precise identification of those religious sects (…) which differ from the already known sect of the ‘Pentecostals'”, underlining: “The ascertainment of the existence of the sect of ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ and the fact that the authorship of the printed matter already considered in the aforementioned circular August 22, 1939 N. 441/027713 must be attributed to it, it must not give rise to the opinion that the sect of the ‘Pentecostals’ is politically harmless (…) this sect must be deemed dangerous, although to a lesser degree than the sect of ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ ”. “The theories are presented as the true essence of Christianity – continues the Chief of Police Arturo Bocchini in the circular –, with arbitrary interpretations of the Bible and the Gospels. Particularly targeted, in these prints, are the rulers of any form of government, capitalism, the right to declare war and the clergy of any other religion, starting with the Catholic”.[32]

Among the Italian JWs there was also a victim of the Third Reich, Narciso Riet. In 1943, with the fall of Fascism, the Witnesses convicted by the Special Court were released from prison. Maria Pizzato, a recently released Jehovah’s Witness, contacted the co-religionist Narciso Riet, repatriated from Germany, who was interested in translating and disseminating the main articles of The Watchtower magazine, facilitating the clandestine introduction of publications in Italy. The Nazis, backed by the fascists, discovered Riet’s home and arrested him. At the hearing of November 23, 1944 before the Berlin People’s Court of Justice, Riet was called to answer for “violations of national security laws”. A “death sentence” was issued against him. According to the transcript made by the judges, in one of the last letters to his brothers in Hitler Germany Riet would have said: “In no other country on earth is this satanic spirit so evident as in the impious Nazi nation (…) How else would the horrible atrocities be explained and the tremendous violence, unique in the history of God’s people, carried out by Nazi sadists both against Jehovah’s Witnesses and against millions of other people?” Riet was deported to Dachau and sentenced to death with a sentence filed in Berlin on November 29, 1944.[33]

  1. Joseph F. Rutherford died in 1942 and was succeeded by Nathan H. Knorr. According to the doctrine in effect since 1939 under the leadership of Rutherford and Knorr, followers of Jehovah’s Witnesses were under an obligation to refuse military service because accepting it was deemed incompatible with Christian standards. When the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany and Italy was banned during World War II, the Watchtower Society was able to continue to provide “spiritual food” in the form of magazines, leaflets, etc. from its Swiss headquarters. to Witnesses from other European countries. The Company’s Swiss headquarters was strategically very important as it was located in the only European country that was not directly involved in the war, as Switzerland has always been a politically neutral nation. However, as more and more Swiss JWs were tried and convicted for their refusal of military service, the situation began to become dangerous. In fact, if, as a consequence of these convictions, the Swiss authorities had banned the JWs, the printing and dissemination work could almost completely cease and, above all, the material assets recently transferred to Switzerland, would have been confiscated as ‘had happened in other countries. The Swiss JWs were accused by the press of belonging to an organization that undermined the loyalty of citizens in the Army. The situation became increasingly critical to the point that, in 1940, soldiers occupied the Bern branch of the Watch Tower and confiscated all literature. The branch managers were brought before a military court and there was a serious risk that the entire organization of JWs in Switzerland would be banned.

The Society’s lawyers then advised that a statement be made in which it was stated that the JWs had nothing against the military and were not seeking to undermine its legitimacy in any way. In the Swiss edition of Trost (Consolation, now Awake!) of October 1, 1943 it was then published a “Declaration” , a letter addressed to the Swiss authorities stating “that at no time [the Witnesses] had regarded the fulfillment of military obligations as an offense to the principles and aspirations of the Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” As proof of their good faith, the letter stated that “hundreds of our members and supporters have fulfilled their military obligation and continue to do so.”[34]

The content of this statement has been partially reproduced and criticized in a book co-written by Janine Tavernier, the former president of the association for the fight against sectarian abuse ADFI, who perceives in this document “cynicism”,[35] taking into account the well-known attitude of the Watchtower for military service and what the adepts in fascist Italy or in the territories of the Third Reich were going through at the time, given that on the one hand Switzerland had always been a neutral state, but the attitude of the leadership of the movement, which had already tried to come to terms with Adolf Hitler in 1933, never bothered to know whether the state requiring the fulfillment of military obligations was at war or not; at the same time, the German Jehovah’s Witnesses were executed for refusing military service and the Italian ones ended up in prison or exile. Consequently, the attitude of the Swiss branch appears problematic, even if, it was nothing more than the application of that strategy that the leaders of the movement have been adopting for some time, namely the “theocratic warfare doctrine”,[36] according to which “it is appropriate not to make the truth known to those who do not have the right to know it”,[37] given that for them the lie is “Saying something false to those who have the right to know the truth, and doing this with the intention of deceiving or harming him or someone else”.[38] In 1948, with the war over, the next president of the Society, Nathan H. Knorr, disavowed this statement as stated in La Torre di Guardia of May 15, 1948, pp. 156, 157:

For several years the number of publishers in Switzerland had remained the same, and this contrasted with the largest influx of publishers in increasing numbers that had occurred in other countries. They have not taken a firm and unequivocal stand in full public in order to distinguish themselves as true biblical Christians. Such was the grave case concerning the question of neutrality to be observed towards world affairs and disputes, as well as that of being opposed [?] To the pacifists conscientious objectors, and also concerning the question of the position they must assume as sincere ministers of the gospel ordained by God.

For example, in the October 1, 1943 edition of the Trost (Swiss edition of Consolation), which thus appeared during the maximum pressure of this last world war, when the political neutrality of Switzerland seemed threatened, the Swiss office took charge to publish a Declaration, a clause of which read: “Of the hundreds of our colleagues [German: Mitglieder] and friends in the faith [Glauberfreunde] have fulfilled their military duties and still continue to fulfill them today.” This flattering statement had disconcerting effects both in Switzerland and in parts of France.

Warmly applauded, Brother Knorr fearlessly disavowed that clause in the declaration because it did not represent the position taken by the Society and was not in harmony with the Christian principles clearly set forth in the Bible. The time had therefore come when the Swiss brothers had to give reason before God and Christ, and, in response to Brother Knorr’s invitation to show themselves, many brothers raised their hands to point out to all observers that they were withdrawing their tacit approval given to this declaration in 1943 and they did not wish to further support it in any way.

The “Declaration” was also disavowed in the letter from the French Society, where not only the authenticity of the Declaration is recognized, but where the inconvenience for this document is evident, well aware that it could cause damage; he wants it to remain confidential and is considering further discussions with the person who asked questions about this document, as evidenced by the two recommendations he addressed to this follower:

We ask you, however, not to place this “Declaration” in the hands of the enemies of truth and especially not to allow photocopies of it in virtue of the principles set forth in Matthew 7:6; 10:16. Without therefore wanting to be too suspicious of the intentions of the man you visit and out of simple prudence, we prefer that he does not have any copy of this “Declaration” in order to avoid any possible adverse use against the truth. (…) We think it is appropriate for an elder to accompany you to visit this gentleman considering the ambiguous and thorny side of the discussion.[39]

However, despite the content of the aforementioned “Declaration”, the 1987 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, dedicated to the history of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Switzerland, reported on page 156 [page 300 of the Italian edition, ed] about the period of the Second World War: “Following what their Christian conscience dictated, almost all of Jehovah’s Witnesses refused to do military service. (Isa. 2: 2-4; Rom . 6: 12-14; 12: 1, 2).”

The case relating to this Swiss “Declaration” is mentioned in the book by Sylvie Graffard and Léo Tristan entitled Les Bibleforschers et le Nazisme – 1933-1945, in its sixth edition. The first edition of the volume, released in 1994, was translated into Italian with the title I Bibleforscher e il nazismo. (1943-1945) I dimenticati dalla Storia, published by the Parisian publishing house Editions Tirésias-Michel Reynaud, and the purchase was recommended among the Italian JWs, who will use it in the following years as a source outside the movement to tell the harsh persecution perpetrated by the Nazis. But after the first edition, no further updated ones were released. The authors of this book, in the drafting of the sixth edition, have received a response from the Swiss geo-visual authorities, of which we quote some excerpts, on pages 53 and 54:

In 1942 there was a notable military trial against the leaders of the work. The result? The Christian argument of the defendants was only partially recognized and some guilt was attributed to them in the question of refusing military service. As a result, a serious risk loomed over the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Switzerland, that of a formal ban by the government. If that had been the case, the Witnesses would have lost the last office still officially operating on the European continent. This would have seriously threatened assistance for Witness refugees from Nazi-ruled countries as well as clandestine efforts on behalf of victims of persecution in Germany.

It is in this dramatic context that the Witnesses’ attorneys, including the highly reputed Social Democratic Party attorney Johannes Huber of St. Gallen, encouraged Bethel officials to issue a statement that would dispel political slander. Launched against the Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The text of the “Declaration” was prepared by this lawyer, but signed and published by the Association officials. The “Declaration” was in good faith and overall well worded. It probably helped avoid the ban.

“However, the statement in the “Declaration “that” hundreds of our members and friends “had fulfilled and continued to perform” their military duties “simply summed up a more complex reality. The term “friends” referred to unbaptized people, including non-Witness husbands who, of course, were doing military service. As for the “members”, they were in fact two groups of brothers. In the first, there were Witnesses who had refused military service and had been sentenced rather severely. The “Declaration” does not mention them. In the second, there were many Witnesses who had actually joined the army.

“In this regard, another important aspect should be noted. When the authorities argued with the Witnesses, they insisted that Switzerland was neutral, that Switzerland would never start a war, and that self-defense did not violate Christian principles. The latter argument was not inadmissible to the Witnesses. Thus the principle of global Christian neutrality on the part of Jehovah’s Witnesses was obscured by the fact of Switzerland’s official “neutrality”. The testimonies of our older members who lived at that time attest to this: in the event that Switzerland actively entered the war, the enlisted were determined to immediately dissociate from the army and join the ranks of the objectors. […]

Unfortunately, by 1942, contacts with the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses had been cut off. The persons in charge of the work in Switzerland therefore did not have the opportunity to consult it in order to receive the necessary advice. As a result, among the Witnesses in Switzerland, some chose to be conscientious objectors and refuse military service, resulting in imprisonment, while others were of the opinion that service in a neutral army, in a non-combatant country, was not irreconcilable with their faith.

“This ambiguous position of the Witnesses in Switzerland was not acceptable. That is why, immediately after the end of the war and once contacts with the world headquarters were re-established, the question was raised. The witnesses spoke very openly about the embarrassment the “Declaration” had caused them. It is also interesting to note that the problematic sentence was the subject of a public rebuke and correction by the president of the World Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses, M.N.H. Knorr, and that in 1947, when at a congress held in Zurich [… ]

“Since then, it has always been clear to all Swiss Witnesses that Christian neutrality means refraining from any connection with the country’s military forces, even if Switzerland continues to officially profess its neutrality. […]

The reason for this declaration, therefore, is clear: the organization had to protect the last operational office in Europe surrounded by the Third Reich (in 1943 even northern Italy will be invaded by the Germans, who will establish the Italian Social Republic, as a state fascist puppet). The statement was deliberately ambiguous; make the Swiss authorities believe that Jehovah’s Witnesses who refused military service were doing so on their own initiative and not under a religious code, and that “hundreds” of JW were doing military service, a false claim according to the statement of the 1987 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which stated that “most of Jehovah’s Witnesses refused to take up armed service.[40] Therefore, the author of the Declaration has included without specifying “unbelieving” husbands married to female JW and unbaptized investigators – who are not considered to be Jehovah’s Witnesses according to doctrine – and apparently some true Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The responsibility for this text rests with a person outside the religion movement, in this case the Watchtower’s lawyer. However, if we want to make a comparison, we note that the same thing was the same thing as the “Declaration of the Facts” of June 1933, addressed to the Nazi dictator Hitler, whose text had anti-Semitic parts, asserting that the author was Paul Balzereit, head of the of the Magdeburg Watchtower, literally vilified in the 1974 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses as a traitor to the cause of the movement,[41] but only after the historians, M. James Penton in the front line joins other authors, such as the former Italian JWs Achille Aveta and Sergio Pollina, will understand that the author of the text was Joseph Rutherford, presenting the German JWs as eager to come to terms with Hitler’s regime showing the same Nazi antipathy towards the United States and Jewish circles in New York.[42] In all cases, even if it was written by one of their lawyers, the Swiss authorities of the Watchtower organization were indeed the signatories of this text. The only excuse is the detachment, due to the war, with the world headquarters in Brooklyn in October 1942, and the subsequent public disavowal of 1947.[43] Although it is true that this exonerates the American authorities of the millennial cult, this does not prevent them from understanding that Swiss Watchtower authorities, albeit in good faith, actually used an unpleasant ploy to avoid flanking criticism from Swiss rulers while in neighboring fascist Italy or Nazi Germany and many other parts of the world many of their co-religionists ended up in prisons or to police confinement or were even shot or guillotined by the SS in order not to fail in the command not to take up arms.

  1. The years following Rutherford’s presidency are characterized by a renegotiation of a lower level of tension with the company. Ethical concerns, linked in particular to the role of the family, are becoming more and more prominent, and an attitude of indifference towards the surrounding world will creep into the JWs, replacing the open hostility towards institutions, seen under Rutherford even in fascist Italy.[44]

Having married a milder image will favor a global growth that will characterize the entire second half of the twentieth century, which also corresponds to a numerical expansion of the JWs that pass from 180,000 active members in 1947 to 8.6 million (2020 data), number soared in 70 years. But the globalization of the JWs was favored by a religious reform introduced in 1942 by the third president Nathan H. Knorr, namely the establishment of the “missionary college of society, the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead”,[45] initially Watchtower Biblical University of Gilead, born to train missionaries but also future leaders and expand the cult worldwide[46] after yet another apocalyptic expectation left on paper.

In Italy, with the fall of the fascist regime and the end of the Second World War, the work of the JWs will resume slowly. The number of active publishers was very low, only 120 according to official estimates, but on the orders of the president of the Watch Tower Knorr, who at the end of 1945 visited the Swiss branch with secretary Milton G. Henschel, where the work was coordinated in Italy, a small villa will be purchased in Milan, in via Vegezio 20, to coordinate the 35 Italian congregations.[47] To increase the work in a Catholic country where in the Fascist era the ecclesiastical hierarchies had opposed the JWs and Protestant cults by mistakenly associating them with “communism”,[48] the Watch Tower Society will send several missionaries from the United States to Italy. In 1946 the first JW missionary arrived, the Italian-American George Fredianelli, and several will follow, reaching 33 in 1949. Their stay, however, will be anything but easy, and the same goes for that of other Protestant missionaries, evangelicals and a-Catholics.

To understand the context of the convulsive relations between the Italian State, the Catholic Church and the various American missionaries, various aspects must be seen: on the one hand the international context and on the other, Catholic activism after World War II. In the first case, Italy had signed a peace treaty with the victors in 1947 where a power stood out, the United States, in which evangelical Protestantism was strong culturally, but above all politically, precisely when the division between modernist Christians and “New Evangelicalism” fundamentalists with the birth of the National Association of Evangelicals (1942), Fuller Seminary for Missionaries (1947) and Christianity Today magazine (1956), or the popularity of Baptist pastor Billy Graham and his crusades which will reinforce the idea that the geopolitical clash against the USSR was of an “apocalyptic” type,[49] hence the impetus for missionary evangelization. As the Watch Tower Society creates the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead, American evangelicals, in the wake of Pax America and the abundance of surplus military equipment, are strengthening missions abroad, including in Italy.[50]

All of this must be part of the strengthening of Italian-American interdependence with the Treaty of friendship, trade and navigation between the Italian Republic and the United States of America, signed in Rome on February 2, 1948 and ratified with Law no. 385 of June 18, 1949 by James Dunn, American ambassador to Rome, and Carlo Sforza, foreign minister of the De Gasperi government.

Law no. 385 of 18 June 1949, published in the supplement of the Gazzetta Ufficiale della Repubblica Italiana (“Official Gazette of the Italian Republic”) no. 157 of 12 July 1949, noted a situation of privilege that the United States actually enjoyed vis-à-vis Italy especially in the economic field, such as art. 1, no. 2, which states that the citizens of each of the High Contracting Parties have the right to exercise rights and privileges in the territories of the High Contracting Party, without any interference, and in compliance with the Laws and Regulations in force, under conditions no less favorable to those currently granted or which will be granted in the future to the citizens of that Other Contracting Party, how to enter each other’s territories, reside there and travel freely.

The article stated that the citizens of each of the two parties will mutually have the right to carry out in the territories of the other High Contractor “commercial, industrial, transformation, financial, scientific, educational, religious, philanthropic and professional activities, except for the exercise of the legal profession”. Art. 2, no. 2, on the other hand, states that the “Legal Persons or Associations, created or organized in accordance with the Law and Regulations in force in the territories of each High Contracting Party, will be considered Legal Persons of the said Other Contracting Party, and their legal status will be recognized by the territories of the other Contracting Party, whether or not they have permanent offices, branches or agencies”. At no. 3 of the same art. 2 it is also specified that “the Legal Persons or Associations of each High Contracting Party, without interference, in compliance with the laws and regulations in force, possess all the rights and privileges indicated in par. 2 of art. 1”.

The treaty, criticized by the left Marxist for the advantages obtained by US trusts,[51] will also affect religious relations between Italy and the United States on the basis of the provisions of Articles 1 and 2, because Legal Persons and Associations created in one of the two countries could be fully recognized in the Other Contracting Party, but above all for art. 11, par. 1, which will serve the various American religious groups to have greater freedom of maneuver despite the distinctions of the Catholic Church:

The citizens of each High Contracting Party shall enjoy in the territories of the other High Contracting Party freedom of conscience and freedom of worship and may, both individually and collectively or in religious institutions or associations, and without any nuisance or harassment of any kind due to their beliefs religious, celebrate functions both in their homes and in any other suitable building, provided that their doctrines or their practices are not contrary to public morality or public order.

Furthermore, after the Second World War, the Catholic Church carried out in Italy a project of “Christian reconstruction of society” which implied for its pastors the carrying out of a new social role, but also a political one, which will be carried out electorally with mass political support to the advantage of the Christian Democrats, an Italian political party of Christian-democratic and moderate inspiration positioned at the center of the parliamentary hemicycle, founded in 1943 and active for 51 years, until 1994, a party that played a pivotal role in the post-war period of Italy and in the process of European integration, given that Christian Democrat exponents were part of all Italian governments from 1944 to 1994, most of the time expressing the President of the Council of Ministers, also fighting for the maintenance of Christian values in Italian society (the opposition of the Christian Democrats to the introduction of divorce and abortion into Italian law).[52]

The story of the Church of Christ, a restorationist group originally from the United States, confirms the political role of the American missionaries, given that the attempt to expel them from the Italian territory was hampered by the intervention of representatives of the American government who reported to the Italian authorities that Congress would was able to react with “very serious consequences”, including the refusal of financial aid to Italy, if the missionaries were expelled.[53]

For a-Catholic cults in general – even for the JWs, even though they are not considered Protestants for anti-Trinitarian theology –, the Italian situation after the war will not be among the most rosy, despite the fact that, formally, the country had a Constitution that guaranteed the rights minorities.[54] In fact, since 1947, for the aforementioned “Christian reconstruction of society,” the Catholic Church will oppose these missionaries: in a letter from the apostolic nuncio of Italy dated 3 September 1947 and sent to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, it is reiterated that the “Secretary of State of His Holiness” was opposed to the inclusion in the aforementioned Treaty of friendship, trade and navigation between the Italian Republic and the United States of America, which was to be signed only afterwards, of a clause that would have allowed non-Catholic cults to “organize real acts of worship and propaganda outside temples”.[55] The same apostolic nuncio, shortly after, will point out that with art. 11 of the Treaty, “in Italy Baptists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists, Wesleyans, Flickering [literally “Tremolanti”, derogatory term used to designate the Pentecostals in Italy, ed] Quakers, Swedenborgians, Scientists, Darbites, etc.” they would have had the faculty to open “places of worship everywhere and especially in Rome”. There is mention of the “difficulty in getting the point of view of the Holy See to be accepted by the American Delegation regarding art. 11”.[56] The Italian delegation insisted on trying to convince the US delegation to accept the Vatican proposal”,[57] but in vain.[58] The Italian branch of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, which as we said had requested the sending of missionaries from the United States, the first of which will be George Fredianelli, “sent to Italy to serve as a circuit overseer”, that is, as itinerant bishop, whose territory of competence will include “All of Italy, including Sicily and Sardinia”.[59] The Annuario dei Testimoni di Geova del 1983 (Engl. Edition, 1982 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses), where the story of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Italy is also talked about in several places, describing his missionary activity in postwar Italy, an Italy in total ruin as a legacy of the world war:

The first appointed circuit overseer, however, was Brother George Fredianelli, who began his visits in November 1946. He was accompanied the first time around by Brother Vannozzi. (…) Brother George Fredianelli, now a member of the Branch Committee, recalls the following events from his circuit activity:

“When I called on brothers I would find relatives and friends all waiting for me and anxious to listen. Even on return visits people called in their relatives. In actual fact, the circuit overseer didn’t give just one public talk a week, but one a few hours long at every return visit. At these calls there might even be 30 persons present and sometimes many more gathered together to listen attentively.

“The aftermath of the war often made life in the circuit work difficult. The brothers, like most other people, were very poor, but their loving-kindness made up for it. They wholeheartedly shared the little food they had, and often they would insist that I sleep on the bed while they lay down on the floor without covers because they were too poor to have any extra ones. Sometimes I had to sleep in the cow stall on a heap of straw or dried corn leaves.

“On one occasion, I arrived at the station of Caltanissetta in Sicily with a face as black as a chimney sweep’s from the soot flying out of the steam engine in front. Although it had taken me 14 hours to travel about 80 to 100 kilometers [50 to 60 mi.], my spirits rose on arrival, as I conjured up visions of a nice bath followed by a well-earned rest in some hotel or other. However, it was not to be. Caltanissetta was teeming with people for the celebration of St. Michael’s Day, and every hotel in town was packed full of priests and nuns. Finally I went back to the station with the idea of lying down on a bench that I had seen in the waiting room, but even that hope vanished when I found the station closed after the arrival of the last evening train. The only place I found to sit down and rest a while was the steps in front of the station.”

With the help of the circuit overseers the congregations began to hold regular Watchtower and book studies. Furthermore, as we improved the quality of service meetings, the brothers became more and more qualified in the preaching and teaching work.[60]

Fredianelli will make a request to extend the stay of his missionaries in Italy, but the request will be rejected by the Foreign Ministry after the negative opinion of the Italian Embassy in Washington, which will announce it on September 10, 1949: “This Ministry does not see any political interest on our part that advises us to accept the request for an extension”.[61] Also the note from the Ministry of the Interior, of September 21, 1949, noted that there was “no political interest in granting the extension request”.[62]

With the exception of some who were children of Italians, the missionaries of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, after only six months of their arrival, will have to leave Italian soil. But only upon insistence, however, will an extension of their stay take place,[63] as also confirmed by the Italian edition of the magazine of the movement, in the issue of 1 March 1951:

Even before the twenty-eight missionaries had arrived in Italy in March 1949, the office had made a regular application requesting visas for one year for all of them. At first the officials made it clear that the government was looking at the issue from an economic point of view and the situation therefore seemed reassuring for our missionaries. After six months, we suddenly received a communication from the Ministry of the Interior ordering our brothers to leave the country by the end of the month, in less than a week. Of course, we refused to accept this order without a legal battle and every possible effort was made to get to the bottom of the matter to ascertain who was responsible for this treacherous blow. Speaking with people who worked at the Ministry we learned that our files showed no recourse from the police or other authorities and that, therefore, only a few “big guys” could be responsible. Who could he be? A friend of the Ministry informed us that the action against our missionaries was very strange because the attitude of the government was very tolerant and favorable towards American citizens. Perhaps the Embassy could be of help. Personal visits to the Embassy and numerous talks with the Ambassador’s secretary all turned out to be useless. It was more than evident, as even American diplomats admitted, that someone who wielded a lot of power in the Italian government did not want the Watch Tower missionaries to preach in Italy. Against this strong power the American diplomats simply shrugged their shoulders and said, “Well, you know, the Catholic Church is the State Religion here and practically they do what they like.” From September to December we delayed the Ministry’s action against the missionaries. Finally, a limit was set; the missionaries were to be out of the country by December 31st.[64]

After the expulsion, the missionaries were able to return to the country in the only way permitted by law, as tourists, asking to take advantage of the tourist visa lasting three months, after which they had to go abroad to return to Italy a few days later, a a practice that was immediately noticed, with apprehension, by the police authorities: the Ministry of the Interior, in fact, in a circular of datect October 10, 1952, with the subject «Associazione “Testimoni di Geova”» (Association “Jehovah’s Witnesses”), addressed to all the prefects of Italy, warned the police bodies to intensify “the vigilance on the activity” of the aforementioned religious association, not allowing “any extension of residence permits to foreign exponents” of the association.[65] Paolo Piccioli noted that the “Two missionaries [JWs], Timothy Plomaritis and Edward R. Morse, were forced to leave the country as shown in the file in their name”, quoted above, while from the archive documentation in the Central State Archives noted “the inhibition of the entry into Italy of two other missionaries, the Madorskis. Documents from the years 1952-1953 were found at the AS [the State Archives] of Aosta from which it appears that the police were trying to trace the spouses Albert and Opal Tracy and Frank and Laverna Madorski, missionaries [JWs], to dispose of them removal from the national territory or to distrust them from proselytizing.”[66]

But often the order, always in the context of the aforementioned “Christian reconstruction of society”, originated from the ecclesiastical authorities, at a time when the Vatican still mattered. On October 15, 1952 Ildefonso Schuster, cardinal of Milan, published in the Osservatore Romano the article “Il pericolo protestante nell’Arcidiocesi di Milano” (“The Protestant danger in the Archdiocese of Milan”), violently against the Protestant religious movements and associations “in command and in the pay of foreign leaders”, noting its American origin, where it will come to re-evaluate the Inquisition because there the clergy “had the great advantage of the help of the civil power in the repression of the heresy”, arguing that the activity of the so-called Protestants “undermined national unity” and “disseminated discord in families”, an evident reference to the evangelization work of these groups, first of all the affiliates of the Watch Tower Society.

In fact, in the edition of February 1-2, 1954, the Vatican newspaper, in the “Lettera dei Presidenti delle Conferenze Episcopali Regionali d’Italia” (“Letter of the Presidents of the Regional Episcopal Conferences of Italy”), urged the clergy and the faithful to fight the work of Protestants and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Although the article does not mention names, it is obvious that it was mainly referring to them. It says: “We must then denounce the intensified Protestant propaganda, usually of foreign origin, which is sowing pernicious errors even in our country (…) solicitude those in duty (…).” “Who should be” could only be the Public Security authorities. In fact, the Vatican urged priests to denounce the JWs – and other non-Catholic Christian cults, first of all the Pentecostals, harshly persecuted by the Fascists and Christian Democratic Italy until the 1950s –[67] to the police authorities: hundreds were in fact arrested, but many were released immediately, others fined or detained, even using non-repealed rules of the Fascist legislative code, given that as for other cults – think of the Pentecostals – the Ministerial Circular no. 600/158 of April 9, 1935 known as the “Circular Buffarini-Guidi” (from the name of the Undersecretary of the Interior who signed it, drafted with Arturo Bocchini and the approval of Mussolini) and was also charged with the infringement of articles 113, 121 and 156 of the Consolidated Law on Public Security laws issued by fascism which required the license or registration in special registers for those who distributed writings (art.113), exercised the profession of street vendor (art.121), or they carried out the collection of money or collections (art. 156).[68]

  1. The lack of interest on the part of US political authorities would derive from the fact that JWs abstain from politics believing that they are “not part of the world” (John 17: 4). The JWs are expressly commanded to maintain neutrality towards the political and military issues of nations;[69] cult members are urged not to interfere in what others are doing in terms of voting in political elections, running for political office, joining political organizations, shouting political slogans, etc. as indicated in La Torre di Guardia (Italian Edition) of November 15, 1968 pages 702-703 and of September 1, 1986 pages 19-20. Using its undisputed authority, the leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses has induced adepts in the vast majority of countries (but not in some states in South America) not to appear at the polls in political elections. we will explain the reasons for this choice using letters from the Rome branch of the JWs:

What violates neutrality is not simply showing up at the polling station or entering the voting booth. The violation occurs when the individual makes a choice of a government other than that of God. (Jn 17:16) In countries where there is an obligation to go to the polls, the brothers behave as indicated in W 64. In Italy there is no such obligation or there are no penalties for those who do not show up. Those who show up, even if they are not obliged, should ask themselves why they do it. However, whoever presents himself but does not make a choice, not violating neutrality, is not subject to the discipline of a judicial committee. But the individual is not exemplary. If he were an elder, ministerial servant, or pioneer, he could not be blameless and would be removed from his responsibility. (1Tim 3:7, 8, 10, 13) However, should anyone show up at the polls, it is good for the elders to speak to him to understand why. Perhaps he needs help to understand the wise course to follow. But except for the fact that he can lose certain privileges, going to the polls per se remains a matter of personal and conscience.[70]

For the leadership of  Jehovah’s Witnesses:

The action of whoever expresses the preferential vote is a violation of neutrality. To violate neutrality it is necessary more than to introduce oneself, it is necessary to express preference. If anyone does this, he dissociates himself from the congregation for violating his neutrality. We understand that spiritually mature people do not present themselves as much as, as in Italy, it is not compulsory. Otherwise ambiguous conduct is manifested. If a person shows up and is an elder or ministerial servant, he or she may be removed. By not having an appointment in the congregation, however, the person who presents himself will manifest that he is spiritually weak and will be regarded as such by the elders. It is good to let everyone take their own responsibilities. In giving you the answer we address you to W October 1, 1970 p. 599 and ‘Vita Eterna’ chap. 11. It is helpful to mention this in private conversations rather than at meetings. Of course, even at the meetings we can emphasize the need to be neutral, however the matter is so delicate that the details are best given verbally, in private.[71]

Since baptized JWs “are not part of the world”, if a member of the congregation unrepentantly pursues a conduct that violates Christian neutrality, that is, he votes, meddles in political affairs or performs military service, dissociates himself from the congregation, resulting in ostracism and social death, as indicated in La Torre di Guardia (Italian edition) July 15, 1982, 31, based on John 15: 9. If a JW is pointed out that he is violating Christian neutrality but refuses the help offered and prosecutes, a judicial committee of elders should communicate the facts confirming the dissociation to the national branch through a bureaucratic procedure that involves filling in some forms, signed S-77 and S-79, which will confirm the decision.

But if for the leadership of the movement the true violation of the principle of Christian neutrality is expressed by the political vote, why did the JWs assert the position of not going to the polls? It seems that the Governing Body opts for such a drastic choice, in order “not to arouse suspicion and not to trip others”,[72] “forgetting”, in the strictly Italian case, that art. 48 of the Italian Constitution states that: “The vote is personal and equal, free and secret. Its exercise is a civic duty”; it is “forgotten” that art. 4 of the Consolidated Law no. 361 of March 3, 1957, published in the ordinary supplement to the Gazzetta Ufficiale  no. 139 of June 3, 1957 states that: “The exercise of voting is an obligation to which no citizen can escape without failing to a precise duty toward the country.” So why don’t the Governing Body and the branch committee at Rome Bethel take these two standards into consideration? Because in Italy there is no precise legislation that tends to punish those who do not go to the polls, legislation instead existing in some countries of South America and which bring local and foreign JWs to go to the polls, in order not to incur administrative sanctions, however canceling the ballot in accordance with “Christian neytrality”.

As for the political elections, the phenomenon of abstention in Italy took hold in the 1970s. If, after the war, the Italian citizens felt honored to be able to participate in the political life of the Republic after years of fascist dictatorship, with the advent of numerous scandals linked to parties, at the end in the 70s, the trust of those entitled to miss. This phenomenon is still very present today and demonstrates an ever greater distrust in parties and therefore in democracy. As reported by an ISTAT study in this regard: “The share of voters who did not go to the polls has steadily increased since the 1976 political elections, when it represented 6.6% of the electorate, until the last consultations in 2001, reaching 18.6% of those entitled to vote. If the basic data – that is the share of citizens who did not go to the polls – is added the data relating to the so-called unexpressed votes (blank ballots and null ballots), the phenomenon of the growth of “non-voting” takes on even greater dimensions, reaching almost one in four voters in the latest political consultations”.[73] It is evident that electoral abstention, beyond “Christian neutrality” can have a political meaning, just think of political groups, such as anarchists, which explicitly do not vote as an expression of their profound hostility towards a system legalitarian and an entry into institutions. Italy has repeatedly had politicians who invited voters not to vote in order not to reach the quorum in certain referendums. In the case of the JWs, abstentionism has a political value, because, like the anarchists, it is an expression of their profound hostility towards any kind of political system, which, according to their theology, would oppose Jehovah’s sovereignty. JWs do not see themselves as citizens of this “present system of things”, but, based on 1 Peter 2:11 (“I urge you as strangers and temporary residents to continue to abstain from carnal desires,” NWT) they are estranged from any political system: “In the more than 200 countries in which they are present, the witnesses of Jehovah are law-abiding citizens, but no matter where they live, they are like strangers: they maintain a position of absolute neutrality in relation to political and social issues. Even now they see themselves as citizens of a new world, a world promised by God. They rejoice that their days as temporary residents in an imperfect world system are coming to an end.”[74]

This, however, is what must be done for all followers, even if the leaders, both those of the world headquarters and of the various branches around the world, often use political parameters to act. In fact, the explicit attention to the political arena by the top Italian JWs is confirmed by various sources: in a letter of 1959 it is noted that the Italian branch of the Watch Tower Society explicitly recommended relying on lawyers “of republican or social-democratic tendencies” since “they are the best our defense”, therefore using political parameters, forbidden to adepts, when it is clear that a lawyer should be valued for professional skills, not for party affiliation.[75] That of 1959 will not be an isolated case, but it seems to have been a practice on the part of the Italian branch: a few years earlier, in 1954 the Italian Branch of Watchtower sent two special pioneers – that is, full-time evangelizers in areas where there is the greatest need for preachers; every month they dedicate 130 hours or more to the ministry, having a sober lifestyle and a small reimbursement from the Organization –  into the city of Terni, Lidia Giorgini and Serafina Sanfelice.[76] The two JW pioneers will, like many evangelizers of the time, be sued and charged for evangelizing door to door. In a letter, following the complaint, the Italian branch of Jehovah’s Witnesses will suggest to the senior responsible a lawyer for the defense of the two pioneers, on the basis of curricular, but openly political parameters:

Dear brother,

We hereby inform you that the trial of the two pioneer sisters will take place on November 6 at the Terni District Court.

The Society will defend this process and for this we will be happy to know from you if you can find a lawyer in Terni who can take the defense at the trial.

In taking this interest, we prefer that the choice of lawyer be of a non-communist tendency. We want to use a Republican, Liberal or Social Democrat lawyer. Another thing we want to know in advance will be the lawyer’s expense.

As soon as you have this information, please communicate it to our office, so that the Society can proceed on the matter and decide. We remind you that you will not have to engage any lawyer, but only to obtain information, pending our communication regarding your letter.

Happy to cooperate with you in the theocratic work, and awaiting your mention, we send you our fraternal greetings.

Your brothers in precious faith

Watch Tower B&T Society[77]

In a letter the Italian Office of the Watch Tower Society’s Branch, located in Rome in Via Monte Maloia 10, was asked the JW Dante Pierfelice to entrust the defense of the case to the lawyer Eucherio Morelli (1921-2013), municipal councilor in Terni and candidate for the 1953 legislative elections for the Republican Party, whose fee was 10,000 lire, a figure considered by the branch as “reasonable”, and enclosed two copies of similar sentences to show to the lawyer.[78]

The reasons of the parameters adopted in 1954 and 1959, parameters of a political nature, are understandable, parameters that are more than legitimate, but if the common JW were to apply them, it would certainly be judged not very spiritual, a clear case of “double standard”. In fact, in the political landscape of the postwar period, the Republican Party (PRI), the Social-Democratic Party (PSDI) and Liberal Party (PLI) were three centrist political forces, secular and moderate, the first two of the “democratic left”, and the last conservative but secular, but all three will be pro-American and Atlanticist;[79] it would not have been appropriate for a millennial organization that makes the fight against Catholicism its strong point to use a lawyer linked to the Christian Democrats, and the recent persecution during the fascist regime excluded the possibility of contacting a lawyer of the extreme right, linked to the Social Movement (MSI), an political party that will pick up the legacy of fascism. Not surprisingly, defending missionaries and publishers and conscientious objectors JW, we will have lawyers like lawyer Nicola Romualdi, a republican exponent of Rome who will defend the JWs for over thirty years “when it was very difficult to find a lawyer willing to support the (…) cause” and who will also write several articles on the official newspaper of the PRI, La Voce Repubblicana, in favor of the religious group in the name of secularism. In a 1954 article, he wrote:

The police authorities continue to violate this principle of [religious] freedom, preventing peaceful meetings of believers, dispersing the defendants, stopping the propagandists, imposing a warning on them, a ban on residence, repatriation to the Municipality of by means of the mandatory waybill. As we pointed out before, it is very often a question of those manifestations that have recently been called “indirect”. The Public Security, that is, or the Arma dei Carabinieri, do not act by rightly prohibiting manifestations of religious sentiment that are in competition with the Catholic one, but take as a pretext other transgressions that or do not exist, or are the result of a cavilling and vexatious of the regulations in force. Sometimes, for example, distributors of Bibles or religious pamphlets are challenged that they do not have the license prescribed for street vendors; sometimes the meetings are dissolved because – it is argued – the prior permission of the police authority has not been requested; sometimes the propagandists are criticized for a petulant and annoying behavior of which, however, it does not seem that they, in the interest of their propaganda, are responsible. The notorious public order is very often on stage, in the name of which so many arbitrations in the past are justified.[80]

Unlike the 1959 letter which simply called for a lawyer close to the PRI and PSDI to be used, the 1954 letter pointed out that the branch preferred that the choice of lawyer to use fell on one “of non-communist bent.” Despite the fact that in some municipalities the mayors elected on the lists of the Socialist Party and the Communist Party had helped, in an anti-Catholic key (since Catholic laity voted for Christian Democracy), the local evangelical communities and the JWs against the oppression of Catholics, to hire a Marxist lawyer, although secular and in favor of religious minorities, would have confirmed the accusation, false and addressed to non-Catholic missionaries, of being “subversive Communists”,[81] an accusation that was not reflected – limiting us only to the JWs – to the literature of the movement, which in the correspondence from Italy published first in the American edition and then, after a few months, in the Italian one, not only criticisms of the Catholic Church abounded but also of the “communist athei”, confirming how the American background took hold, where a fierce anti-communism reigned.

An article published in the Italian edition of the La Torre di Guardia of January 15, 1956 on the role of the Italian Communist in Catholic Italy, is used to distance himself from the accusation launched by the ecclesiastical hierarchies that the Communists used Protestant and a-Catholic cults (including Witnesses) to help break up society:

Religious officials have argued that the Communist exponents and press “do not hide their sympathy and support for this disuniting Protestant propaganda.” But is this the case? Great strides toward freedom of worship have been made in Italy, but this has not been without difficulty. And when procommunist newspapers report in their columns the abuses and unfair treatment of religious minorities, their concern is not with right doctrine, nor with sympathizing with or supporting other religions, but with making political capital out of the fact that undemocratic and unconstitutional actions have been taken against these minority groups. The facts show that the Communists are not seriously interested in spiritual matters, either Catholic or non-Catholic. Their main interest lies in the material things of this earth. The Communists ridicule those who believe in the promises of God’s kingdom under Christ, calling them cowards and parasites.

The Communist press ridicules the Bible and smears the Christian ministers who are teaching God’s Word. As an example, note the following report from the Communist newspaper La Verità of Brescia, Italy. Calling Jehovah’s witnesses “American spies disguised as ‘missionaries,’” it said: “They go from house to house and with the ‘Holy Scriptures’ preach submission to war prepared by the Americans,” and it further falsely charged that these missionaries were paid agents of New York and Chicago bankers and were endeavoring to “gather information of every kind regarding the men and the activities of the [Communist] organizations.” The writer concluded that “the duty of the workers, who know how to defend their country well . . . is therefore to slam the door in the faces of these vulgar spies disguised as pastors.”

Many Italian Communists do not object to having their wives and children attend the Catholic church. They feel that since some kind of religion is desired by the women and children it might as well be the same old religion that their fathers taught them. Their argument is that there is no harm in the religious teachings of the Catholic Church, but it is the wealth of the church that irritates them and the church’s siding with the capitalistic countries. Yet the Catholic religion is Italy’s largest—a fact that the vote-seeking Communists well recognize. As their repeated public statements prove, the Communists would much prefer the Catholic Church as a partner rather than some other religion in Italy.

The Communists are determined to get control of Italy, and this they can do only by winning over to their side a greater number of Catholics, not non-Catholics. Above all, this means convincing such nominal Catholics that communism certainly is not favoring any other religious faith. The Communists are very much interested in the votes of the Catholic peasants, the class that has been tied to Catholic tradition for centuries, and in the words of Italy’s Communist leader they “do not ask the Catholic world to cease to be a Catholic world,” but “tend towards a mutual understanding.”[82]

Confirming that the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses, despite the “neutrality” preached, is influenced by the American background, there are not a few articles, between the 50s and 70s, where there is a certain anti-communism aimed at the PCI, accusing the church of not being a bulwark against the “reds”.[83] Other articles from the 1950s and 1970s tend to negatively view the communist rise, proving that the North American background is fundamental. On the occasion of the International Convention of JWs held in Rome in 1951, the movement’s magazine describes the facts as follows:

“The Italian Kingdom proclaimers and missionaries had worked for days to prepare the ground and the hall for this assembly. The building used was an L-shaped exhibition hall. The Communists had been there some time before and left things in a deplorable state. The floors were dirty and the walls were smeared with political expressions. The man from whom the brothers rented the land and the building said that he could hardly afford the costs of putting things right for the three days of the convention. He told Jehovah’s witnesses that they could do whatever they wanted to make the place presentable. When the owner came on site the day before the assembly began, he was amazed to see that all the walls of the building that we would use had been painted and the ground clean. was put in order and a beautiful tribune was erected at the corner of the “L”. Fluorescent lights were established. The back of the stage was made of laurel green woven net and dotted with pink and red carnations. It looked like a new building now and not a scene of wrecks and insurrection left behind by the Communists.”[84]

And on the occasion of the “Holy Year of 1975”, in addition to describing the secularization of Italian society in the 1970s, where “the ecclesiastical authorities admit that less than one in three Italians (…) regularly goes to church”, the magazine Svegliatevi! (Awake!) records another “threat” to the spirituality of Italians, which favors detachment from the church:

These are the infiltrations of an archenemy of the Church in the midst of the Italian population, especially among young people. This enemy of religion is communism. Although on several occasions the communist doctrine actually fits both religion and other political ideologies, the ultimate goal of communism has not changed. This goal is to eliminate religious influence and power wherever communism is in power.

For the past thirty years in Italy, official Catholic teaching has been to not elect Communist candidates. Catholics have been warned on several occasions not to vote Communist, on pain of excommunication. In July of the Holy Year, the Catholic bishops of Lombardy said that the priests who encouraged the Italians to vote for Communist had to withdraw otherwise they risked excommunication.

L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican organ, published a declaration by the bishops of northern Italy in which they expressed their “painful disapproval” for the result of the elections in June 1975 in which the Communists won two and a half million votes, surpassing almost the number of votes obtained by the ruling party supported by the Vatican. And towards the end of the Holy Year, in November, Pope Paul gave new warnings to Catholics who supported the Communist Party. But for some time it has been evident that such warnings have fallen on more deaf ears.[85]

With reference to the excellent results of the PCI at the policies of 1976, consultations that saw the Christian Democracy prevail again, almost stable with 38.71%, whose primacy, however, for the first time, was seriously undermined by the Italian Communist Party which, obtaining a impetuous increase in support (34.37%), stopped a few percentage points from the Christian Democrats, maturing the best result in its history, for the Watchtower these results were the sign that “the system of things” was running out and that Babylon the Great would be it was wiped out shortly thereafter (we are shortly after 1975, when the organization prophesied the imminent Armageddon, as we will see later) by the Communists, as indicated in La Torre di Guardia of April 15, 1977, p. 242, in the section “Significato delle notizie”: 

In the political elections held in Italy last summer, the majority party, Christian Democracy, supported by the Catholic Church, won a narrow victory over the Communist Party. But the Communists continued to gain ground. This was also seen in the local elections held at the same time. For example, in the administration of the municipality of Rome, the Communist Party won 35.5 percent of the votes, compared with 33.1 percent of Christian democracy. So, for the first time Rome came under the control of a coalition led by the Communists. The “Sunday News” in New York said that this “was a step backwards for the Vatican and for the pope, who exercises the authority of the Catholic bishop of Rome”. With the votes in Rome, the Communist Party now predominates in the administration of every major Italian city, observes the “News”. (…) These trends recorded in Italy and other countries towards more radical forms of government and the departure from the “Orthodox” religion are a bad omen for the churches of Christianity. However this was foretold in biblical prophecy in Revelation chapters 17 and 18. There the Word of God reveals that religions that have ‘committed prostitution’ with this world will suddenly be destroyed in the near future, much to the dismay of the supporters of those religions.

The Communist leader Berlinguer, therefore, recognized by all as a fairly balanced politician (he initiated a gradual detachment of the PCI from the Soviet Union), in the fervent mind of the Watch Tower Society was about to destroy Babylon in Italy: a pity that with those electoral results opened the phase of “historical compromise” between the DC of Aldo Moro and the PCI of Enrico Berlinguer, a phase inaugurated in 1973 which indicates the trend towards rapprochement between the Christian Democrats and the Italian Communists observed in the 1970s, which will lead, in 1976, to the first Christian Democratic single-color government that was governed by the external vote of the Communist deputies, called “National Solidarity”, led by Giulio Andreotti. In 1978 this government resigned to allow a more organic entry of the PCI into the majority, but the too moderate line of the Italian government risked wrecking everything; the affair will end in 1979, after the kidnapping of the killing of the Christian Democrat leader by Marxist terrorists of the Red Brigades occurred nil March 16, 1978.

The movement’s apocalyptic eschatology was also conditioned it was conditioned by international events, such as the rise of Hitler and the Cold War: in interpreting Daniel 11, which speaks of the clash between the king of the North and the South, which for the JWs has a double fulfillment, the Governing Body will identify the king of the South with “the double Anglo-American power” and the king of the North with the Nazi Germany in 1933, and after the end of the Second World War with USSR and its allies. The collapse of the Berlin Wall will lead the organization to stop identifying the King of the North with the Soviets.[86] The anti-Sovietism has now evolved into criticism of the Russian Federation of Vladimir Putin, which has banned the legal entities of the Watcht Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania.[87]

  1. The climate will change for the JWs – and for non-Catholic cults – thanks to various events, such as the cessation of application of the “Buffarini Guidi” circular, which took place in 1954 (following the sentence of the Court of Cassation of 30 November 1953, which that this circular remained “a purely internal order, of directive to the dependent bodies, without any publicity towards citizens who, as this College has constantly decided, could not therefore incur criminal sanctions in case of non-compliance”),[88] and in specific, for two sentences of 1956 and 1957, which will favor the work of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, facilitating its recognition in Italy as a cult on the basis of the Italian-American Treaty of friendship of 1948 on a par with other non-Catholic cults of American origin.

The first sentence concerned the end of the application of art. 113 of the Consolidated Law on Public Security, which requires the “license of the local public security authority” to “distribute or put into circulation, in a public place or place open to the public, writings or signs”, and which led the authorities to punish the JWs, known for door-to-door work. Constitutional Court, following the arrest of several Watch Tower Society publishers, issued the first sentence in its history, announced on June 14, 1956,[89] historic sentence, unique of its kind. In fact, as Paolo Piccioli reports:

This ruling, considered historic by scholars, was not limited to checking the legitimacy of the aforementioned rule. It had first of all to pronounce on a fundamental question and that is to establish, once and for all, whether its power of control also extended to the pre-existing provisions of the Constitution, or whether it should be limited to those issued subsequently. The ecclesiastical hierarchies had long ago mobilized Catholic jurists to support the Court’s incompetence over pre-existing laws. Obviously the Vatican hierarchies did not want the abrogation of the fascist legislation with its apparatus of restrictions that stifled the proselytism of religious minorities. But the Court, strictly adhering to the Constitution, rejected this thesis by affirming a fundamental principle, namely that “a constitutional law, due to its intrinsic nature in the system of a rigid Constitution, must prevail over ordinary law”. By examining the aforementioned Article 113, the Court declares the constitutional illegitimacy of various provisions contained therein. In March 1957, Pius XII, referring to this decision, criticized “by pronounced declaration of constitutional illegitimacy of some previous norms”.[90]

The second sentence instead concerned 26 followers sentenced by the Special Court. At a time when many Italian citizens, convicted by that court, obtained a review of the trial and were acquitted, the Associazione Cristiana dei Testimoni di Geova (“Christian Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses”), as the cult was then known, decided to ask for a review of the trial to claim the rights not of the 26 convicts, but of the organization tout court,[91] given that the sentence of the Special Court accused the JWs of being “a secret association aimed at making propaganda to depress national sentiment and to carry out acts aimed at changing the form of government” and to pursue “criminal purposes”.[92]

The request for review of the trial was discussed before the Court of Appeal of L’Aquila on March 20, 1957 with 11 of the 26 convicted, defended by the lawyer Nicola Romualdi, official lawyer of the Italian branch of the Watch Tower Society, member of the Republican Party and columnist of La Voce Repubblicana.

A report of the review of the sentence reports that while the lawyer Romualdi explained to the Court that the JWs considered the Catholic hierarchy as a “harlot” for its interference in political matters (because through its spiritistic practices “all nations are misled”, based on Revelation 17: 4-6, 18, 18:12, 13, 23, NWT), “the judges exchanged glances and smiles of understanding”. The Court decided to overturn the previous convictions and consequently recognized that the work of the Italian branch of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society was neither illegal nor subversive.[93] The measure was maintained taking into account “the fact that the 1940 circular [which banished the JWs] has not been expressly revoked so far, [therefore] it will be necessary to preliminarily examine the opportunity to bring into force the prohibition of any activity of the Association”, noting however that “it would be [ro] to be evaluated (…) the possible repercussions in the United States of America ”,[94] given that, even if officially the organization of the JWs had no political cover, a rage against an American legal entity could also lead to diplomatic problems.

But the epochal change that will favor the legal recognition of this and other non-Catholic organizations from the United States will be the Second Vatican Council (October 1962-December 1965), which with its 2,540 “fathers” was the largest deliberative assembly in the history of the Church. Catholicism and one of the largest in the history of humanity, and which will decide reforms in the biblical, liturgical, ecumenical field and in the organization of life within the Church, changing Catholicism at its root, reforming its liturgy, introducing the languages spoken in the celebrations, detriment of Latin, renewing the rites, promoting concelebrations. With the reforms that came after the Council, the altars were turned and the missals were fully translated into modern languages. If first the Roman Catholic Church will promote, being the daughter of the Council of Trent (1545-1563) and of the Counter-Reformation, models of intolerance towards all religious minorities, inciting the forces of the PS to repress them and interrupt meetings, assemblies, inciting crowds who attacked them by throwing various objects at them, preventing the adepts of non-Catholic cults from accessing public employment and even simple funeral ceremonies,[95] hour, with the Second Vatican Council, the ecclesiastics will scorn themselves, and began, even for various documents relating to the ecumenism and religious freedom, a milder climate.

This will ensure that in 1976 the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania “was admitted to the rights guaranteed by the 1949 Treaty of Friendship, Trade and Navigation between the Italian Republic and the United States of America”;[96] cult could appeal to Law no. 1159 of June 24, 1929 on the “Provisions on the exercise of cults admitted to the state and of marriage celebrated before the same ministers of worship”, where in art. 1 there was talk of “Accepted Cults” and no longer of “Tolerated Cults” as the Albertine Statute sanctioned since 1848, to which the “International Bible Students Association” was excluded because it lacked legal personality, not being a juridical “Body” neither in the Kingdom of Italy nor abroad and having been banned since 1927. Now, with the admission to the rights guaranteed by the treaty stipulated with the United States, the Italian branch of the Watch Tower Society could have ministers of worship with the possibility of celebrating valid marriages for civil purposes, enjoying health care, pension rights guaranteed by law, and with access to penal institutions for the exercise of the ministry.[97] Exponential set up in Italy on the basis of the dpr of 31 October 1986, no 783, published in the Gazzetta ufficiale della Repubblica Italiana of November 26, 1986.

  1. From the late 1940s through the 1960s, the increase in JW publishers was common explained by the Watchtower Society as proof of divine favor. The American leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses they exulted when in journalistic descriptions they were described as “the fastest growing religion of the world” than “In 15 years, it has tripled its membership”;[98] the fear of the atomic bomb, the cold war, the armed conflicts of the twentieth century made the apocalyptic expectations of the Watchtower very plausible, and will favor the increase with the Knorr presidency. And the loss of vigor of the Catholic Church and of the various “traditional” evangelical churches should not be forgotten. As M. James Penton noted: “Many former Catholics have been attracted to the Witnesses since the reforms of Vatican II. They often state openly that their faith was shaken by changes in traditional Catholic practices and indicate that they were seeking a religion with ‘definite commitments’ to moral values and a firm authority structure.”[99] Johan Leman’s research on Sicilian immigrants in Belgium and those conducted by Luigi Berzano and Massimo Introvigne in central Sicily seem to confirm Penton’s reflections.[100]

These considerations surround the “case of Italy”, given that the JW movement had, in the Catholic country, a great success, initially slow growth: the results of the organizational measures put in place by President Knorr soon allowed the regular printing of books and La Torre di Guardia and, since 1955, Svegliatevi! That same year, the Abruzzo region was the one with the largest number of followers, but there were regions of Italy, such as the Marches, where there were no congregations. The service report of 1962 admitted that, also due to the difficulties analyzed above, “the preaching was carried out in a small part of Italy”.[101]

Over time, however, there was an exponential increase, which can be summarized as follows:


We notice a very strong numerical increase after 1971. Why? Speaking on a general level, and not just the Italian case, M. James Penton replies, in reference to the Watchtower leadership mentality in the face of positive postwar results:

They also seemed to take a peculiarly American sense of satisfaction, not only from the dramatic increases in the numbers of baptisms and new Witness publishers, but also out of the construction of new printeries, branch headquarters, and the phenomenal amounts of literature which they published and distributed. Bigger always seemed better. Visiting speakers from the Brooklyn Bethel would often show slides or movies of the society’s New York printing factory while they waxed eloquent to Witness audiences around the world on the amounts of paper used to print The Watchtower and Awake! magazines. So when the major increases of the early 1950s were replaced by the slow growth of the following ten or twelve years, this was somewhat disheartening to both Witness leaders and individual Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout the world.

The result of such feelings on the part of some Witnesses was a belief that perhaps the preaching work was nearly finished: perhaps most of the other sheep had been gathered. Perhaps Armageddon was at hand.[103]

All this will change, with an acceleration, which will affect, as seen above, the increase of followers, in 1966, when the Society electrified the entire community of Witnesses by indicating the year 1975 as the end of six thousand years of human history and, therefore, in all probability, the beginning of the Christ’s millennium. This was due to a new book entitled Vita eterna nella libertà dei figli di Dio (Eng. Life Everlasting in Freedom of the Sons of Gods), published for the 1966 summer conventions (1967 for Italy). On pages 28-30 its author, who subsequently It was known to have been Frederick William Franz, vice president of the Watchtower, stated, after criticizing the biblical chronology elaborated by the Irish archbishop James Ussher (1581-1656), which he indicated in 4004 BC. the year of birth of the first man:

Since Ussher’s time there has been an intense study of biblical chronology. In this twentieth century an independent study was made that does not blindly follow some traditional chronological calculation of Christianity, and the printed calculation of time that results from this independent study indicates the date of man’s creation as 4026 BC. E. V. According to this trusted biblical chronology, six thousand years after the creation of man will end in 1975, and the seventh thousand-year period of human history will begin in the fall of 1975 C.E.[104]

The author will go further:

Six thousand years of man’s existence on earth are therefore about to end, yes, within this generation. Jehovah God is eternal, as it is written in Psalm 90: 1, 2: “O Jehovah, you yourself have shown that you are a royal dwelling for us from generation to generation. Before the mountains themselves are born, or before you managed the earth and the productive land as with birth pains, from indefinite time to indefinite time you are God ”. From the standpoint of Jehovah God, then, these six thousand years of man’s existence that are about to pass are but like six days of twenty-four hours, for that same psalm (verses 3, 4) goes on to say: “You bring back the mortal man to the dust, and you say, ‘Return, children of men. For a thousand years are in your eyes as yesterday when it passed, and as a watch during the night. ”M Not many years in our generation, then, we will come to what Jehovah God might regard as the seventh day of man’s existence.

How fitting it would be for Jehovah God to make this seventh thousand-year period a Sabbath period of rest, a great Jubilee Sabbath for the proclamation of earthly freedom to all its inhabitants! This would be very appropriate for mankind. It would also be very suitable on God’s part, since, remember, mankind still has before it what the last book of the Holy Bible speaks of as the millennial reign of Jesus Christ on earth, the millennial reign of Christ. Prophetically, Jesus Christ, when he was on earth nineteen centuries ago, said about himself: “The Son of man is Lord of the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12: 8) It would not be by chance, but it would be according to the loving purpose of Jehovah God that the kingdom of Jesus Christ, the “Lord of the Sabbath”, ran parallel to the seventh millennium of man’s existence.”[105]

At the end of the chapter, on pp. 34 and 35, a “Tabelle di date significative della creazione dell’uomo al 7000 A.M.” (“Table of significant dates of the creation of man at 7000 A.M.”) was printed. which states that the first man Adam was created in 4026 B.C.E. and that the six thousand years of man’s existence on earth would end in 1975:

But only from 1968 did the organization give great prominence to the new date of the end of the six thousand years of human history and of the possible eschatological implications. A new small publication, La verità che conduce alla vita eterna, a bestseller in the organization still remembered with some nostalgia as “the blue bomb”, was presented at the district conventions that year would replace the old book Sia Dio riconosciuto verace as principal study tool for making converts, which, like the 1966 book, gave rise to expectations for that year, 1975, containing insinuations that pointed to the fact that the world would not survive beyond that fateful year, but which will be corrected in the 1981 reprint.[106] The Society also suggested that Bible studies a domicile with the persons concerned with the help of the new book should be limited to a short period of no more than six months. By the end of that period, future converts must already have become JWs or at least regularly attend the local Kingdom Hall. Time was so limited that it was settled that if people had not accepted “the Truth” (as defined by the JWs throughout their doctrinal and theological apparatus) within six months, the opportunity to know it had to be given to others before it was too late.[107] Obviously, even looking at the growth data in Italy alone from 1971 to 1975, the speculation of the apocalyptic date accelerated the sense of urgency of the faithful, and this prompted many interested to jump on the apocalyptic chariot of the Watchtower Society. In addition, many lukewarm Jehovah’s Witnesses suffered a spiritual shock. Then, in the fall of 1968, the Company, in response to the response from the public, began to publish a series of articles on Svegliatevi! and La Torre di Guardia that left no doubt that they were expecting the end of the world in 1975. Compared to other eschatological expectations of the past (such as 1914 or 1925), the Watchtower will be more cautious, even if there are statements that make it clear that the organization led followers to believe this prophecy:

One thing is absolutely certain, the biblical chronology supported by the fulfilled biblical prophecy shows that six thousand years of human existence will soon end, yes, within this generation! (Matt. 24:34) This, therefore, is not the time to be indifferent or complacent. This is not the time to joke with the words of Jesus that “as to that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven nor the Son, but only the Father”. (Matt. 24:36) On the contrary, it is a time when it should be keenly realized that the end of this system of things is fast approaching its violent end. Do not be deceived, it is enough for the Father himself to know both ‘the day and the hour’!

Even if we can’t see beyond 1975, is this a reason to be less active? The apostles could not see even up to this day; they knew nothing of 1975. All they could see was a short time in front of them in which to finish the work entrusted to them. (1 Pet. 4: 7) So there is a sense of alarm and a cry of urgency in all their writings. (Acts 20:20; 2 Tim. 4: 2) And with reason. If they had delayed or wasted time and had toyed with the thought that there were a few thousand years to go, they would never have finished the race placed before them. No, they ran hard and fast, and won! It was a matter of life or death for them. – 1 Cor. 9:24; 2 Tim. 4: 7; Heb. 12: 1.[108]

It must be said that the Society’s literature has never dogmatically stated that in 1975 the end would come. The leaders of the time, especially Frederick William Franz, undoubtedly had built on the previous failure of 1925. Nonetheless, the vast majority of JWs knowing little or nothing about the old eschatological failures of the cult, were seized with enthusiasm; many traveling and district overseers used the 1975 date, especially at conventions, as a means to encourage members to increase their preaching. And it was unwise to openly doubt the date, as this could indicate “poor spirituality” if not lack of faith for the “faithful and discreet slave”, or leadership.[109]

How did this teaching affect the lives of JWs around the world? This teaching had a dramatic effect on people’s lives. In June 1974, the Ministero del Regno reported that the number of pioneers had exploded and people who sold their homes were praised to spend the little time left in God’s service. Likewise, they were advised to postpone the education of their children:

Yes, the end of this system is imminent! Isn’t this a reason to grow our business? In this regard, we can learn something from the runner who towards the end of the race makes a last sprint. Look at Jesus, who evidently hastened his activity in the last days that he was on earth. In fact, over 27 percent of the material in the Gospels is dedicated to the last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry! – Matthew 21: 1–27: 50; Mark 11: 1–15: 37; Luke 19: 29-23: 46; John 11: 55–19: 30.

By carefully examining our circumstances in prayer, we may also find that we are able to devote more time and energy to preaching in this final period before the present system ends. Many brothers do just that. This is evident in the rapidly increasing number of pioneers.

Yes, since December 1973 there have been new pioneer highs every month. There are now 1,141 regular and special pioneers in Italy, an unprecedented high. This equates to 362 more pioneers than in March 1973! A 43 percent increase! Do not our hearts rejoice? News is heard of brothers selling their homes and possessions and arranging to spend the rest of their days in this old system as a pioneer. This is certainly an excellent way of using the short time left before the end of the wicked world. – 1 John 2:17.[110]

Thousands of young JWs undertook a career as a regular pioneer at the expense of a university or full-time career, and so did many new converts. Businessmen, shopkeepers, etc. gave up theirs prosperous business. Professionals quit their full-time jobs and quite a few families around the world sold their homes and moved “Where the need [for preachers] was greatest.” Young couples postponed their marriage or they decided not to have children if they got married. Mature couples withdrew their bank accounts and, where the pension system was partially private, pension funds. Many, both young and old, both men and women, decided to postpone some surgeries or appropriate medical treatment. This is the case, in Italy, of Michele Mazzoni, a former congregation elder, who testifies:

These are whipping, reckless and reckless, which have pushed entire families [of Jehovah’s Witnesses] to the pavement for the benefit of the GB [Governing Body, ed.] to because of which naive followers have lost goods and jobs to go from door to door to increase the revenues of the Society, already many substantial and conspicuous … Many JWs have sacrificed their own future and that of their children for the benefit of the same Company … the naive JWs think that it is useful to stock up to face the first periods of survival after the terrible day of God’s wrath which in 1975 would have been unleashed in Harmageddon … some JWs began to stock up on living and candles in the summer of 1974; such a psychosis had developed (…).

Mazzotti preached the end of the system of things for 1975 everywhere and on all occasions according to the directives given. He is also one of those who made so many provisions (canned goods) so that at the end of 1977 he had not yet disposed of them with his family.[111] “I recently came into contact with people of different nationalities: French, Swiss, English, Germans, New Zealanders and people who live in North Africa and South America”, says Giancarlo Farina, former JW who will then make a path of escape becoming Protestant and director of the Casa della Bibbia (House of Bible), Turin evangelical publishing house that distributes Bibles, “all have confirmed to me that Jehovah’s Witnesses have preached 1975 as the year of the end. Further proof of the ambiguity of the GB is found in the contrast between what was stated in the Ministero del Regno of 1974 and what is stated in the Watchtower [dated January 1, 1977, page 24]: there, brothers are praised for selling their homes and goods and spending their last days in pioneer service”.[112]

External sources, such as the national press, also understood the message that the Watchtower was launching. The 10 August 1969 edition of the Roman newspaper Il Tempo published an account of the International Assembly “Pace in Terra”, “Riusciremo a battere Satana nell’agosto 1975” (“We will be able to beat Satan in August 1975”), and reports:

Last year, their [JW] president Nathan Knorr explained in August 1975 that the end of 6,000 years of human history would occur. He was asked, then, if it was not the announcement of the end of the world, but he replied, raising his arms to the sky in a reassuring gesture: “Oh no, on the contrary: in August 1975, only the end of an era of wars, violence and sin and a long and fruitful period of 10 centuries of peace will begin during which wars will be banned and sin won …”

But how will the end of the world of sin come about and how was it possible to establish the beginning of this new era of peace with such surprising precision? When asked, an executive replied: “It’s simple: through all the testimonies collected in the Bible and thanks to the revelations of numerous prophets we have been able to establish that it is exactly in August 1975 (however we do not know the day) that Satan will be definitively beaten and will begin. the new era of peace.

But it is evident that, in the theology of the JW, which does not foresee the end of the planet earth, but of the human system “ruled by Satan”, “the end of an era of wars, violence and sin” and the “beginning a long and fruitful period of 10 centuries of peace during which wars will be banned and sin conquered” will only take place after the battle of Armageddon! There were several newspapers that talked about it, especially from 1968 to 1975.[113] When the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses found itself misled, to discharge the responsibility for predicting yet another “postponed apocalypse,” in a private correspondence sent to a reader of its magazines, the Italian branch went so far as to deny having ever said the world should end in 1975, placing the blame on journalists, chasing “sensationalism” and under the power of Satan the Devil:

Dear Sir,

We respond to your letter and we have read it with extreme care, and we think it is wise to inquire before trusting similar statements. He must never forget that almost all publications today are for profit. For this, writers and journalists strive to please certain categories of people. They are afraid of offending readers or announcers. Or they use the sensational or the bizarre to increase sales, even at the cost of distorting the truth. Virtually every newspaper and advertising source is ready to shape public sentiment according to Satan’s will.

Of course, we have not made any statements regarding an end of the world in 1975. This is false news that has been picked up by numerous newspapers and radio stations.

Hoping to have been understood, we send you our sincere greetings.[114]

Then the Governing Body, when it found that many of Jehovah’s Witnesses were not buying it, discharged the responsibility with the publication of a magazine in which it reproaches the Brooklyn Writers’ Committee for having emphasized the date of 1975 as the date for the end of the world, “forgetting” to specify that the Committee of Writers and Editors are made up of members of the same Governing Body.[115]

When 1975 came and proved yet another “apocalypse delayed” to a later date (but the prophecy of the generation of 1914 remained that would not pass before Armagheddon, to which the organization will emphasize for example from the book Potete vivere per sempre su una terra paradisiaca of 1982, and in 1984, even if it was not a new doctrine)[116] not a few JWs suffered a tremendous disappointment. Quietly many left the movement. The 1976 Yearbook reports, on page 28, that during 1975 there was a 9.7% increase in the number of publishers over the previous year. But in the following year the increase was only 3.7%,[117] and in 1977 there was even a decrease of 1%! 441 In some countries the decrease was even greater.[118]

Looking below the graph, based on the percentage growth of JWs in Italy from 1961 to 2017, we can read very well from the figure that growth was high just since the book Vita eterna nella libertà dei figli di Dio and the resulting propaganda was released. The graph clearly shows the increase in 1974, near the fateful date and, with peaks of 34% and an average growth, from 1966 to 1975, of 19.6% (against 0.6 in the 2008-2018 period). But, after the bankruptcy, the subsequent decrease, with modern growth rates (limited to Italy only) equal to 0%.

The graph, whose data is predominantly taken from service reports published in the December issues of Kingdom Ministries, indicates that the preaching of that period, focused on the indicated end for 1975, had a persuasive effect in favoring the growth of the Witnesses of Jehovah, who the following year, in 1976, were recognized by the Italian state. The declines in the following years indicate not only the existence of defections, but also a stagnation – with some upsurge in the 1980s – of the movement, which will no longer have the growth rates, compared to the population, as it was then.[119]


 The first Italian convention of International Bible Students
Association, held in Pinerolo, from 23 to 26 April, 1925


 Remigio Cuminetti


Letter from the Rome branch of the JWs signed SB, dated December 18, 1959 where the Watchtower explicitly recommends relying on lawyers “of republican or social-democratic tendencies” since “they are the best for our defense”.

In this letter from the Rome branch of the JWs signed SB, dated December 18, 1959, the Watchtower explicitly recommends: “we prefer that the choice of lawyer be of a non-communist tendency. We want to use a Republican, Liberal or Social Democrat lawyer”.

In this letter from the Rome branch of the JWs signed EQA:SSC, dated September 17, 1979, addressed to the top management of RAI [the company that is the exclusive concessionaire of the public radio and television service in Italy, ed.] and to the President of the Parliamentary Commission for the supervision of RAI services, the legal representative of the Watch Tower Society in Italy wrote: “In a system, like the Italian one, which is based on values of the Resistance, Jehovah’s Witnesses are one of the very few groups that has dared to put reasons of conscience before pre-war power in Germany and Italy. therefore they express noble ideals in contemporary reality”.

Letter from the Italian branch of JW, signed SCB: SSA, dated September 9, 1975, where the Italian press is blamed for spreading alarmist news about the end of the world in 1975.

“Riusciremo a battere Satana nell’agosto 1975” (“We will be able to beat Satan in August 1975”),
Il Tempo, August 10, 1969.

Enlarged fragment of the newspaper quoted above:

“Last year, their [JW] president Nathan Knorr explained in August 1975 that the end of 6,000 years of human history would occur. He was asked, then, if it was not the announcement of the end of the world, but he replied, raising his arms to the sky in a reassuring gesture: ‘Oh no, on the contrary: in August 1975, only the end of an era of wars, violence and sin and a long and fruitful period of 10 centuries of peace will begin during which wars will be banned and sin won …’

But how will the end of the world of sin come about and how was it possible to establish the beginning of this new era of peace with such surprising precision? When asked, an executive replied: “It’s simple: through all the testimonies collected in the Bible and thanks to the revelations of numerous prophets we have been able to establish that it is exactly in August 1975 (however we do not know the day) that Satan will be definitively beaten and will begin. the new era of peace.”

Erklärung or Declaration, published in the Swiss edition of the magazine Trost (Consolation, today Awake!) of October 1, 1943.


Translation of the Declaration published in Trost of October 1, 1943.


Every war plagues humanity with countless evils and causes grave scruples of conscience to thousands, even millions of people. This is what can be said very aptly about the ongoing war, which spares no continent and is fought in the air, in the sea and on land. It is inevitable that in times like these we will involuntarily misunderstand and willfully suspect wrongly, not only on behalf of individuals, but also on that of communities of all kinds.

We Jehovah’s Witnesses are no exception to this rule. Some present us as an association whose activity is aimed at destroying “military discipline, and secretly provoking or inviting people to refrain from serving, disobey military orders, violate duty of service or desertion.”

Such a thing can only be supported by those who do not know the spirit and the work of our community and, with malice, try to distort the facts.

We firmly assert that our association does not order, recommend or suggest in any way to act against military prescriptions, nor is this thought expressed in our meetings and in the writings published by our association. We do not deal with such matters at all. Our job is to bear witness to Jehovah God and to proclaim the truth to all people. Hundreds of our associates and sympathizers have fulfilled their military duties and continue to do so.

We have never and never will have a claim to declare that the performance of military duties is contrary to the principles and purposes of the Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses as set forth in its statutes. We plead with all our associates and friends in the faith engaged in proclaiming the kingdom of God (Matthew 24:14) to abide – as has always been done up to now – faithfully and firmly to the proclamation of biblical truths, avoiding anything that could give rise to misunderstanding. or even interpreted as an incitement to disobey the military provisions.

Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses of Switzerland

The President: Ad. Gammenthaler

The Secretary: D. Wiedenmann

Bern, September 15, 1943


Letter from the French branch signed SA/SCF, dated November 11, 1982.

Translation of Letter from the French branch signed SA/SCF, dated November 11, 1982.


November 11, 1982

Dear Sister [name] [1]

We have received your letter from the 1st current to which we have paid close attention and in which you ask us for a photocopy of the “Declaration” which appeared in the periodical “Consolation” of October 1943.

We send you this photocopy, but we do not have a copy of the correction made during the national congress in Zurich in 1947. However, many brothers and sisters heard it on that occasion and on this point our behavior was not at all misunderstanding; this is, moreover, too well known for there to be a need for further clarification.

We ask you, however, not to place this “Declaration” into the hands of the enemies of truth and especially not to allow photocopies of it by virtue of the principles set forth in Matthew 7:6 [2]; 10:16. Without therefore wanting to be too suspicious about the intentions of the man you visit and for simple prudence, we prefer that he does not have any copy of this “Declaration” in order to avoid any possible adverse use against the truth.

We think it is appropriate for an elder to accompany you to visit this gentleman considering the ambiguous and thorny side of the discussion. It is for this reason that we allow ourselves to send them a copy of our response.

We assure you dear sister [name] all our brotherly love.

Your brothers and fellow servants,


Les Témoins de Jéhovah


P.s .: Photocopy of the “Declaration”

cc: to the body of the elderly.

[1] For discretion, the name of the recipient is omitted.

[2] Matthew 7:6 says: “Do not throw your pearls before swine.” Evidently the “pearls” are the Declaration and the pigs would be the “opponents”!

Manuscript End Notes

[1] References to Zion are predominant in Russell. The movement’s leading historian, M. James Penton, writes: “During the first half of the Bible Students-Jehovah’s Witnesses’ story, witch began in the 1870s, were they notable for their sympathy to the Jews. Ever more than most late nineteenth- and twentieth century American Protestant premillenialit, the Watch Tower Society first president, Charles T. Russell, was thoroughgoing supporter of Zionist causes.  He refused to attempt to conversion of the Jews, belived in the Jewish resettlement of Palestine, and in 1910 led a New York Jewish audience in singing the Zionist anthem, Hatikva.” M. James Penton, “A Story of Attempted Compromise: Jehovah’s Witnesses, AntiSemitism, and the Third Reich”, The Christian Quest, vol. I, no. 3 (Summer 1990), 33-34. Russell, in a letter addressed to Barons Maurice de Hirsch and Edmond de Rothschild, which appeared on Zion’s Watch Tower of December 1891, 170, 171, will ask “the two leading Jews of the world” to buy land in Palestine to establish Zionist settlements. See: Pastor Charles Taze Russell: An Early Christian Zionist, by David Horowitz (New York: Philosophical Library, 1986), a book much appreciated by the then Israeli ambassador to the UN Benjamin Netanyahu, as reported by Philippe Bohstrom, in “Before Herzl, There Was Pastor Russell: A Neglected Chapter of Zionism”,, August 22, 2008. The successor, Joseph. F. Rutherford, after an initial closeness to the Zionist cause (from 1917-1932), radically changed the doctrine, and to demonstrate that the JWs were the “true Israel of God” he introduced anti-Jewish concepts into the literature of the movement. In the book Vindication he will write: “The Jews were driven out and their home remained desolate because they had rejected Jesus. To this day, they have not repented of this criminal act of their ancestors. Those who have returned to Palestine do so out of selfishness or for sentimental reasons ”. Joseph F. Rutherford, Vindication, vol. 2 (Brooklyn, NY: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, 1932), 257. Today the JWs do not follow either Russellite Zionism or Rutherfordian anti-Judaism, claiming to be neutral from any political question.

[2] The Watchtower Society presents itself simultaneously as a corporate legal institution, as a publishing house and a religious entity. The articulation between these various dimensions is intricate and, in the twentieth century, went through various phases. For reasons of space see: George D. Chryssides, The A to Z of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Lanham: Scare Crow, 2009), LXIV-LXVII, 64; Id., Jehovah’s Witnesses (New York: Routledge, 2016), 141-144; M. James Penton, Apocalypse Delayed. The Story of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015), 294-303.

[3] The name “Jehovah’s Witnesses” was adopted on July 26, 1931 at the convention in Columbus, Ohio, when Joseph Franklin Rutherford, second president of the Watchtower, delivered the speech The Kingdom: the Hope of the World, with resolution A New Name: “We wish to be known and called by the name, that is, Jehovah’s witnesses.” Jehovah’s Witnesses: Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom (Brooklyn, NY: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., 1993), 260. The choice is inspired by Isaiah 43:10, a passage which, in the 2017 New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, reads: “’You are my witnesses,’ declares Jehovah, ‘… God, and there was none after me’.” But the true motivation is different: “In 1931 – writes Alan Rogerson – came an important milestone in the history of the organisation. For many years Rutherford’s followers had been called a variety of names: ‘International Bible Students’, ‘Russellites’, or ‘Millennial Dawners’. In order to distingnish clearly his followers from the other groups who had separated in 1918 Rutherford proposed that they adopt an entirely new name Jehovah’s witnesses.” Alan Rogerson, Millions Now Living Will Never Die: A Study of Jehovah’s Witnesses (London: Constable, 1969), 56. Rutherford himself will confirm this: “Since the death of Charles T. Russell there have arisen numerous companies formed out of those who once walked with him, each of these companies claiming to teach the truth, and each calling themselves by some name, such as “Followers of Pastor Russell”, “those who stand by the truth as expounded by Pastor Russell,” “Associated Bible Students,” and some by the names of their local leaders. All of this tends to confusion and hinders those of good will who are not better informed from obtaining a knowledge of the truth.” “A New Name”, The Watch Tower, October 1, 1931, p. 291

[4] See M. James Penton [2015], 165-71.

[5] Ibid., 316-317. The new doctrine, which filed away the “old understanding,” appeared in The Watchtower, November 1, 1995, 18-19. The doctrine received a further change between 2010 and 2015: in 2010 the Watchtower Society stated that the “generation” of 1914 – regarded by Jehovah’s Witnesses as the last generation before the Battle of Armageddon – includes people whose lives “overlap” those of the “anointed ones who were alive when the sign began become evident in 1914.” In 2014 and 2015, Frederick W. Franz, a forth president of Watchtower Society (b. 1893, d. 1992) was cited as an example of one of the last members of the “anointed” alive in 1914, which suggests that the “generation” should include all “anointed” individuals until his death in 1992. See the article “Holy Spirit’s Role in the Outworking of Jehovah’s Purpose”, The Watchtower, April 15, 2010, p.10 and the 2014 book Il Regno di Dio è già una realtà! (Engl. Edition, God’s Kingdom Rules!), a book that reconstructs, in a revisionist way, the history of the JWs, who attempts to put a time limit on this overlapping generation by excluding from the generation any anointed after the death of the last one anointed before 1914. With a history of changing the generation teaching once any such time frame fails to be met, no doubt this caveat too will change in time. “The generation consists of two overlapping groups of anointed ones-the first is made up of anointed ones who saw the beginning of the fulfillment of the sign in 1914 and the second, anointed ones who for a time were contemporaries of the first group. At least some of those in the second group will live to see the beginning of the coming tribulation. The two groups form one generation because their lives as anointed Christians overlapped for a time.” God’s Kingdom Rules! (Rome: Congregazione Cristiana dei Testimoni di Geova, 2014), 11-12. The Footnote, p. 12: “Anyone who was anointed after the death of the last of the anointed ones in the first group-that is, after those who witnessed the “beginning of pangs of distress” in 1914-would not be part of “this generation.”-Matt. 24:8.” The illustration in the book  Il Regno di Dio è già una realtà!, on p. 12, shows two groups of generations, the anointed of 1914 and the superimposition of the anointed alive today. As a result, there are now 3 groups, as the Watchtower believes that the initial “generation” fulfillment applied to first-century Christians. There was no overlap for first-century Christians and no Scriptural foundation for which there should be overlap today.

[6] M. James Penton [2015], 13.

[7] See: Michael W. Homer, “L’azione missionaria nelle Valli Valdesi dei gruppi americani non tradizionali (avventisti, mormoni, Testimoni di Geova)”, on Gian Paolo Romagnani (ed.), La Bibbia, la coccarda e il tricolore. I valdesi fra due Emancipazioni (1798-1848). Atti del XXXVII e del XXXVIII Convegno di studi sulla Riforma e sui movimenti religiosi in Italia (Torre Pellice, 31 agosto-2 settembre 1997 e 30 agosto- 1º settembre 1998) (Torino: Claudiana, 2001), 505-530 and Id., “Seeking Primitive Christianity in the Waldensian Valleys: Protestants, Mormons, Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses in Italy”, Nova Religio (University of California Press), Vol. 9, no. 4 (May 2006), 5-33. The Waldensian Evangelical Church (Chiesa Evangelica Valdese, CEV) was a pre-Protestant denomination founded by the medieval reformer Peter Waldo in 12th century in Italy. Since the 16th century Reformation, it adopted Reformed theology and blended into the wider Reformed tradition. The Church, after the Protestant Reformation, adhered to Calvinist theology and became the Italian branch of the Reformed churches, until merging with the Methodist Evangelical Church to form the Union of Methodist and Waldensian Churches in 1975.

[8] On the stages of Russell’s tour in Italy, see: Zion’s Watch Tower, February 15, 1892, 53-57 and the number dated March 1, 1892, 71.

[9] See: Paolo Piccioli, “Due pastori valdesi di fronte ai Testimoni di Geova”, Bollettino della Società di Studi Valdesi (Società di Studi Valdesi), no. 186 (June 2000), 76-81; Id., Il prezzo della diversità. Una minoranza a confronto con la storia religiosa in Italia negli scorsi cento anni (Neaples: Jovene, 2010), 29, nt. 12; 1982 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Brooklyn, NY: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania – International Bible Students Association, 1982), 117, 118 and “Two Pastors Who Appreciated Russell’s Writings”, The Watchtower, April 15, 2002, 28-29. Paolo Piccoli, former circuit overseer of the JWs (or bishop, as an equivalent office in other Christian churches) and former Italian nation spokesperson for the “Congregazione Cristiana dei Testimoni di Geova”, the legal body representing the Watchtower Society in Italy, died of cancer on September 6, 2010, as indicated in a biographical note published in the short essay Paolo Piccioli and Max Wörnhard, “A Century of Soppression, Growth and Recognition”, in Gerhard Besier, Katarzyna Stokłosa (ed.), Jehovah’s Witnesses in Europe: Past and Present, Vol. I/2 (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013), 1-134, was the principal author of works on the Witnesses in Italy, and edited works published by the Watchtower Society such as 1982 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, 113–243; he collaborated anonymously in the drafting of volumes such as Intolleranza religiosa alle soglie del Duemila, by the Associazione europea dei Testimoni di Geova per la tutela della libertà religiosa (Roma: Fusa editrice, 1990); I testimoni di Geova in Italia: dossier (Roma: Congregazione Cristiana dei Testimoni di Geova, 1998) and is the author of several historical studies on Italian Jehovah’s Witnesses including: “I testimoni di Geova durante il regime fascista”, Studi Storici. Rivista trimestrale dell’Istituto Gramsci (Carocci Editore), Vol. 41, no. 1 (January-March 2000), 191-229; “I testimoni di Geova dopo il 1946: Un trentennio di lotta per la libertà religiosa”, Studi Storici. Rivista trimestrale dell’Istituto Gramsci (Carocci Editore), Vol. 43, no. 1 (January-March 2002), 167-191, which will form the basis for the book Il prezzo della diversità. Una minoranza a confronto con la storia religiosa in Italia negli scorsi cento anni (2010), and e  “Due pastori valdesi di fronte ai Testimoni di Geova” (2000), 77-81, with Introduzione by prof. Augusto Comba, 76-77,  which will form the basis for the article “Two Pastors Who Appreciated Russell’s Writings,” published in The Watchtower of April 15, 2002, where, however, the apologetic and eschatological tone is accentuated, and the bibliography is removed to facilitate reading. Piccioli is the author of the article, in which the “Waldensian myth” and the idea that this community was, at the beginning, equal to the Christians of the first century, a “primitivist” legacy, entitled “The Waldenses: From Heresy to Protestantism,” The Watch Tower, March 15, 2002, 20–23, and a short religious biography, written by his wife Elisa Piccioli, entitled “Obeying Jehovah Has Brought Me Many Blessings”, published in The Watchtower (Study Edition), June 2013, 3-6.

[10] See: Charles T. Russell, Il Divin Piano delle Età (Pinerolo: Tipografia Sociale, 1904). Paolo Piccioli states in the Bollettino della Società di Studi Valdesi (page 77) that Rivoir translated the book in 1903 and paid out of his own pocket the costs of its publication in 1904, but it is another “urban legend”: the work was paid for by the Cassa Generale dei Treaties of the Zion’s Watch Tower Society of Allegheny, PA, using the Swiss Watch Tower office in Yverdon as intermediary and supervisor, as reported by Zion’s Watch Tower, September 1, 1904, 258.

[11] In US the first study groups or congregations were established in 1879, and within a year more than 30 of them were meeting for six-hour study sessions under Russell’s direction, to examine the Bible and his writings. M. James Penton [2015], 13-46. The groups were autonomous ecclesia, an organizational structure Russell regarded as a return to “primitive simplicity”. See: “The Ekklesia”, Zion’s Watch Tower, October 1881. In an 1882 Zion’s Watch Tower article he said his nationwide community of study groups was “strictly unsectarian and consequently recognize no sectarian name … we have no creed (fence) to bind us together or to keep others out of our company. The Bible is our only standard, and its teachings our only creed.” He added: “We are in fellowship with all Christians in whom we can recognize the Spirit of Christ.” “Questions and answers”, Zion’s Watch Tower, April 1882. Two years later,  eschewing any religious denominationalism, he said the only appropriate names for his group would be “Church of Christ”, “Church of God” or “Christians”. He concluded: “By whatsoever names men may call us, it matters not to us; we acknowledge none other name than ‘the only name given under heaven and among men’ — Jesus Christ. We call ourselves simply Christians.” “Our name”, Zion’s Watch Tower, February 1884.

[12] In 1903 the first issue of the La Vedetta di Sion called itself with the generic name of “Church”, but also “Christian Church” and “Faithful Church”. See: La Vedetta di Sion, vol. I, no. 1, October 1903, 2, 3. In 1904 alongside the “Church” there is talk of the “Church of the Little Flock and of Believers” and even the “Evangelical Church”. See: La Vedetta di Sion, vol. 2, No. 1, January 1904, 3. It will not be an Italian peculiarity: traces of this anti-nationalism can also be found in the French edition of Zion’s Watch Tower, the Phare de la Tour de Sion: in 1905, in a letter sent by the Waldensian Daniele Rivoire describing the debates of faith on Russellite doctrines with the Waldensian Church Commission, it is reported in the finale that: “This Sunday afternoon I go to S. Germano Chisone for a meeting (…) Where there are five or six people who are very interested in the ‘present truth.'” The pastor used expressions like “Holy Cause” and “Opera”, but never other names. See: Le Phare de la Tour de Sion, Vol. 3, no. 1-3, Jenuary-March 1905, 117.

[13] Le Phare de la Tour de Sion, Vol. 6, no. 5, May 1908, 139.

[14] Le Phare de la Tour de Sion, Vol. 8, no. 4, April 1910, 79.

[15] Archivio della Tavola Valdese (Archive of the Waldensian Table) – Torre Pellice, Turin.

[16] Bollettino Mensile della Chiesa (Montly Bulletin of the Church), September 1915.

[17] Il Vero Principe della Pace (Brooklyn, NY: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania – Associazione Internazionale degli Studenti Biblici, 1916), 14.

[18]Annuario dei Testimoni di Geova del 1983, 120.

[19] Amoreno Martellini, Fiori nei cannoni. Nonviolenza e antimilitarismo nell’Italia del Novecento (Donzelli: Editore, Roma 2006), 30.

[20] Idem.

[21] The text of the sentence, sentence no. 309 of August 18, 1916, is taken from the writing of Alberto Bertone, Remigio Cuminetti, on Various Authors, Le periferie della memoria. Profili di testimoni di pace (Verona – Torino: ANPPIA-Movimento Nonviolento, 1999), 57-58.

[22] Amoreno Martellini [2006], 31. During his engagement on the front, Cuminetti distinguished himself for courage and generosity, helping a “wounded officer” who “found himself in front of the trench without having the strength to retreat”. Cuminetti, who manages to rescue the officer, is wounded in the leg in the operation. At the end of the war, “for his act of courage […] he was awarded the silver medal for military valor” but decides to refuse it because “he had not done that act to earn a pendant, but for love of neighbor”. See: Vittorio Giosué Paschetto, “L’odissea di un obiettore durante la prima guerra mondiale”, L’incontro, July-August 1952, 8.

[23] In 1920 Rutherford published the book Milioni or Viventi non Morranno Mai (Millions Now Living Will Never Die), preaching that in 1925 “will mark the return [resurrection] of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the faithful prophets of old, particularly those named by the Apostle [Paul] in Hebrews chap. 11, to the condition of human perfection” (Brooklyn, NY: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, 1920, 88), prelude to Armagheddon’s Battle and the restoration of the Edenic paradise on Earth. “The year 1925 is a date definitely and clearly marked in the Scriptures, even clearer than that of 1914” (The Watch Tower, July 15, 1924,  211). In this regard, see: M. James Penton [2015], 58; Achille Aveta, Analisi di una setta: I testimoni di Geova (Altamura: Filadelfia Editrice, 1985), 116-122 and Id., I testimoni di Geova: un’ideologia che logora (Roma: Edizioni Dehoniane, 1990), 267, 268.

[24] On the repression in the Fascist era, read: Paolo Piccioli, “I testimoni di Geova durante il regime fascista”, Studi Storici. Rivista trimestrale dell’Istituto Gramsci (Carocci Editore), Vol. 41, no. 1 (January-March 2000), 191-229; Giorgio Rochat, Regime fascista e chiese evangeliche. Direttive e articolazioni del controllo e della repressione (Torino: Claudiana, 1990), 275-301, 317-329; Matteo Pierro, Fra Martirio e Resistenza, La persecuzione nazista e fascista dei Testimoni di Geova (Como: Editrice Actac, 1997); Achille Aveta and Sergio Pollina, Scontro fra totalitarismi: nazifascismo e geovismo (Città del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2000), 13-38 and Emanuele Pace, Piccola Enciclopedia Storica sui Testimoni di Geova in Italia, 7 voll. (Gardigiano di Scorzè, VE: Azzurra7 Editrice, 2013-2016).

[25] See: Massimo Introvigne, I Testimoni di Geova. Chi sono, come cambiano (Siena: Cantagalli, 2015), 53-75. In some cases the tensions will culminate in open clashes in the streets provoked by crowds, in courtrooms and even in violent persecutions under the Nazi, Communist and liberal regimes. See: M. James Penton, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Canada: Champions of Freedom of Speech and Worship (Toronto: Macmillan, 1976); Id., Jehovah’s Witnesses and The Third Reich. Sectarian Politics under Persecution (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004) It. Edition I Testimoni di Geova e il Terzo Reich. Inediti di una persecuzione (Bologna: ESD-Edizioni Studio Domenicano, 2008); Zoe Knox, “Jehovah’s Witnesses as Un-Americans? Scriptural Injunctions, Civil Liberties, and Patriotism”, in Journal of American Studies, Vol. 47, no. 4 (November 2013), pp. 1081-1108 and Id, Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Secular World: From the 1870s to the Present (Oxford: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018); D. Gerbe, Zwischen Widerstand und Martyrium: die Zeugen Jehovas im Dritten Reich, (München: De Gruyter, 1999) and E. B. Baran, Dissent on the Margins: How Soviet Jehovah’s Witnesses Defied Communism and Lived to Preach About It (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

[26] Giorgio Rochat, Regime fascista e Chiese evangeliche. Direttive e articolazioni del controllo e della repressione (Torino: Claudiana, 1990), 29.

[27] Ibid., 290. OVRA is abbreviation meaning “opera vigilanza repressione antifascismo” or, in English, “anti-fascism repression vigilance”. Coined by the head of the government himself, never used in official acts, it indicated the complex of secret political police services during the fascist regime in Italy from 1927 to 1943 and of the Italian Social Republic from 1943 to 1945, when central-northern Italy was under Nazi occupation, the Italian equivalent of the National Socialist Gestapo. See: Carmine Senise, Quand’ero capo della polizia. 1940-1943 (Roma: Ruffolo Editore, 1946); Guido Leto, OVRA fascismo-antifascismo (Bologna; Cappelli, 1951); Ugo Guspini, L’orecchio del regime. Le intercettazioni telefoniche al tempo del fascismo; presentation of Giuseppe Romolotti (Milano: Mursia, 1973); Mimmo Franzinelli, I tentacoli dell’OVRA. Agenti, collaboratori e vittime della polizia politica fascista (Torino: Bollati Boringhieri, 1999); Mauro Canali, Le spie del regime (Bologna: Il Mulino, 2004);  Domenico Vecchioni, Le spie del fascismo. Uomini, apparati e operazioni nell’Italia del Duce (Firenze: Editoriale Olimpia, 2005) and Antonio Sannino, Il Fantasma dell’Ovra (Milano: Greco & Greco, 2011).

[28] The first document traced is dated May 30, 1928. This is a copy of a telespresso [a telespresso is a communication that is usually sent by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or by the various Italian embassies abroad]dated May 28, 1928, sent by the Bern legation to the Ministry of the Interior, led by Benito Mussolini, now in Central State Archive [ZStA – Rome], Ministry of the Interior [MI], General Public Security Division [GPSD], General Reserved Affairs Division [GRAD], cat. G1 1920-1945, b. 5.

[29] On the visits of the fascist police to Brooklyn see always ZStA – Rome, MI, GPSD, GRAD, cat. G1 1920-1945, b. 5, handwritten annotation on the treaty published by the Watchtower Un Appello alle Potenze del Mondo, attached to the telespresso dated December 5, 1929 of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Ministry of Foreign Affairs, November 23, 1931.

[30] Joseph F. Rutherford, Nemici (Brooklyn, NY: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, 1937), 12, 171, 307. The citations are reproduced in an annex to the report drawn up by the Inspector General of Public Safety Petrillo, dated 10/11/1939, XVIII Fascist Era, N. 01297 of prot., N. Ovra 038193, in  ZStA – Rome, MI, GPSD, GRAD, subject: “Associazione Internazionale ‘Studenti della Bibbia’”.

[31] «Sette religiose dei “Pentecostali” ed altre», ministerial circular no. 441/027713 of August 22, 1939, 2.

[32] See: Intolleranza religiosa alle soglie del Duemila, Associazione europea dei Testimoni di Geova per la tutela della libertà religiosa (ed.) (Roma: Fusa Editrice, 1990), 252-255, 256-262.

[33] I Testimoni di Geova in Italia: Dossier (Roma: Congregazione Cristiana dei testimoni di Geova), 20.

[34] “The Declaration” will be reproduced and translated into English in the appendix.

[35] Bernard Fillaire and Janine Tavernier, Les sectes (Paris: Le Cavalier Bleu, Collection Idées reçues, 2003), 90-91

[36] The Watchtower Society effectively teaches us to lie explicitly and directly: “There is, however, one exception that the Christian should keep in mind. As a soldier of Christ he takes part in theocratic warfare and must be extremely cautious in dealing with God’s enemies. In fact, the Scriptures indicate that in order to protect the interests of God’s cause, it is right to hide the truth from God’s enemies. .. This would be included in the term “strategy of warfare”, as explained in La Torre di Guardia of August 1, 1956, and is in harmony with Jesus’ advice to be “cautious as serpents” when among wolves. If circumstances require a Christian to testify in court swearing to tell the truth, if he speaks, then he must tell the truth. If he finds himself in the alternative of talking and betraying his brothers, or keeping silent and being reported to the court, the mature Christian will put the welfare of his brothers before his own”. La Torre di Guardia of December 15, 1960, p. 763, emphasis added. These words are a clear summary of the Witnesses’ position on the “theocratic war” strategy. For the Witnesses, all critics and opponents of the Watch Tower Society (which they believe is the only Christian organization in the world) are considered “wolves”, perpetually at war with the same Society, whose followers, conversely, are referred to as “sheep”. It is therefore “right for the harmless ‘sheep’ to use the strategy of warfare against wolves in the interests of God’s work”. La Torre di Guardia of August 1, 1956, p. 462. .

[37] Ausiliario per capire la Bibbia (Roma: Congregazione Cristiana dei Testimoni di Geova, 1981), 819.

[38] Perspicacia nello studio delle Scritture, Vol. II (Roma: Congregazione Cristiana dei Testimoni di Geova, 1990), 257; See: The Watchtower, June 1, 1997, 10 ss.

[39] Letter from the French branch signed SA/SCF, dated November 11, 1982, reproduced in the appendix.

[40] 1987 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, 157.

[41] In the 1974 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses (1975 in Italian), the Watchtower Society is the main accuser of Balzereit, who he accused of having “weakened” the German text by translating it from English. In the third paragraph on page 111 the Watchtowerian publication says that: “It was not the first time that Brother Balzereit had watered down the clear and unmistakable language of the Society’s publications so as to avoid difficulties with governmental agencies.” And on page 112, it goes on to say, “Even though the declaration had been weakened and many of the brothers could not wholeheartedly agree to its adoption, yet the government was enraged and started a wave of persecution against those who had distributed it.” In “defense” of Balzereit we have some two reflections by Sergio Pollina: “Balzereit may have been responsible for the German translation of the Declaration, and may also have been responsible for drafting the letter for Hitler. However, it is also clearly evident that he did not manipulated it by changing its choice of words. First, the Watchtower Society published in the 1934 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses the English version of the Declaration – which is virtually identical to the German version – which constitutes its official declaration to Hitler, the government German officials, and to German officials, from the largest to the smallest; and all this could not have been done without Rutherford’s full approval. Second, the English version of the Declaration is clearly drafted in the unmistakable bombastic style of the judge. Third , the expressions directed against the Jews contained in the Declaration are much more consonant with what is possible eva to write an American like Rutherford that what a German might have written … Finally [Rutherford] was an absolute autocrat who would not tolerate the serious kind of insubordination that Balzereit would be guilty of by “weakening” the Declaration … Regardless of whom wrote the Declaration, the fact is that it was published as an official document of the Watchtower Society.” Sergio Pollina, Risposta a “Svegliatevi!” dell’8 luglio 1998,

[42] In April 1933, after the banning of their organization in most of Germany, the German JWs – after a visit by Rutherford and his collaborator Nathan H. Knorr – on 25 June 1933 gathered seven thousand faithful in Berlin, where A ‘Declaration’ is approved, sent with accompanying letters to key members of the government (including Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler), and of which over two million copies are distributed in the following weeks. The letters and the Declaration – the latter by no means a secret document, later being reprinted in the 1934 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses on pages 134-139, but it is not present in the Watchtower Online Library database, but circulates on the internet in pdf on dissidents’ sites – represent a naive attempt by Rutherford to compromise with the Nazi regime and thus obtain greater tolerance and revocation of the announcement. While the letter to Hitler recalls the Bible Students’ refusal to participate in the anti-German effort during World War I, the Declaration of Facts plays the demagogic card of a low-level populism it asserts, certain that “The current German government has declared war on the oppression of big business (…); this is exactly our position”. Furthermore, it is added that both Jehovah’s Witnesses and the German government are against the League of Nations and the influence of religion on politics. “The people of Germany have suffered great misery since 1914 and have been the victims of much injustice practiced upon them by others. The nationalist have declared themselves against all such unrighteousness and announced that ‘Our relationship to God is high and holy.’” Responding to an argument used by the regime’s propaganda against the JWs, accused of being financed by Jews, the Declaration states that the news is false, because “It is falsely charged by our enemies that we have received fi nancial support for our work from the Jews. Nothing is farther from the truth. Up to this hour there never has been the slightest bit of money contributed to our work by Jews. We are the faithful followers of Christ Jesus and believe upon Him as the Savior of the world, whereas the Jews entirely reject Jesus Christ and emphatically deny that he is the Savior of the world sent of God for man’s good. This of itself should be suffi cient proof to show that we receive no support from Jews and that therefore the charges against us are maliciously false and could proceed only from Satan, our great enemy. The greatest and most oppressive empire on earth is the Anglo-American empire. By that is meant the British Empire, of which the United States of America forms a part. It has been the commercial Jews of the British-American empire that have built up and carried on Big Business as a means of exploiting and oppressing the peoples of many nations. This fact particularly applies to the cities of London and New York, the strongholds of Big Business. This fact is so manifest in America that there is a proverb concerning the city of New York which says: “The Jews own it, the Irish Catholics rule it, and the Americans pay the bills.” Then it proclaimed: “Since our organization fully endorses these righteous principles and is engaged solely in carrying forth the work of enlightening the people concerning the Word of Jehovah God, Satan by his subtilty [sic] endeavors to set the government against our work and destroy it because we magnify the importance of knowing and serving God.” As expected, the Declaration does not have much effect, almost as if it were a provocation, and the persecution against the German JWs, if anything, intensifies. See: 1974 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, 110-111; “Jehovah’s Witnesses—Courageous in the Face of Nazi Peril”, Awake!, July 8, 1998, 10-14; M. James Penton, “A Story of Attempted Compromise: Jehovah’s Witnesses, AntiSemitism, and the Third Reich”, The Christian Quest, vol. I, no. 3 (Summer 1990), 36-38; Id., I Testimoni di Geova e il Terzo Reich. Inediti di una persecuzione (Bologna: ESD-Edizioni Studio Domenicano, 2008), 21-37; Achille Aveta and Sergio Pollina, Scontro fra totalitarismi: Nazifascismo e geovismo (Città del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2000), 89-92.

[43] See: 1987 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, 163, 164.

[44] See: James A. Beckford, The Trumpet of Prophecy. A Sociological Study of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1975), 52-61.

[45] See encyclopedic entry Jehovah’s Witnesses, M. James Penton (ed.), The Encyclopedia Americana, Vol. XX (Grolier Incorporated, 2000), 13.

[46] The Encyclopædia Britannica notes that the Gilead School is intended to train “missionaries and leaders”. See the entry Watch Tower Bible School of Gilead, J. Gordon Melton (ed.), Encyclopædia Britannica (2009),; two current members of the Governing Body of JWs are former Gilead graduate missionaries (David Splane and Gerrit Lösch, as reported in The Watchtower of December 15, 2000, 27 and June 15, 2004, 25), as well as four members now deceased, i.e. Martin Poetzinger, Lloyd Barry, Carey W. Barber, Theodore Jaracz (as reported in The Watchtower of November 15, 1977, 680 and in La Torre di Guardia, Italian edition, of June 1, 1997, 30, of June 1, 1990, 26 and June 15, 2004, 25) and Raymond V. Franz, former missionary in Puerto Rico in 1946 and representative of the Watchtower Society for the Caribbean until 1957, when the JWs were banned in the Dominican Republic by the dictator Rafael Trujillo, later expelled in the spring of 1980 from the world headquarters in Brooklyn on charges of being nearby a staff excommunicated for “apostasy”, and disfellowshipped himself in 1981 for having lunch with his employer, former JW Peter Gregerson, who resigned from the Watchtower Society. See: “Gilead’s 61st Graduation a Spiritual Treat”, The Watchtower of November 1, 1976, 671 and Raymond V. Franz, Crisi di coscienza. Fedeltà a Dio o alla propria religione? (Roma: Edizioni Dehoniane, 1988), 33-39.

[47] Data cited in: Paolo Piccioli, “I testimoni di Geova dopo il 1946: un trentennio di lotta per la libertà religiosa”, Studi Storici: rivista trimestrale dell’Istituto Gramsci (Carocci Editore), Vol. 43, no. 1 (January-March 2001), 167 and La Torre di Guardia March 1947, 47. Achille Aveta, in his book Analisi di una setta: i testimoni di Geova (Altamura: Filadelfia Editrice, 1985) reports on page 148 the same number of congregations, that is 35, but only 95 followers, but the 1982 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, on page 178, points out, recalling that in 1946 “there were on average 95 Kingdom publishers with a maximum of 120 preachers from 35 small congregations.”

[48] In 1939, the Genoese Catholic magazine Fides, in an article by an anonymous “priest in the care of souls”, asserted that “the movement of Jehovah’s Witnesses is atheistic communism and an open attack on the security of the state”. The anonymous priest described himself as “for three years strongly committed against this movement”, standing up in defense of the fascist state. See: “I Testimoni di Geova in Italia”, Fides, no. 2 (February 1939), 77-94. On the Protestant persecution see: Giorgio Rochat [1990], pp. 29-40; Giorgio Spini, Italia di Mussolini e protestanti (Turin: Claudiana, 2007).

[49] On the political and cultural weight of “New Evangelicalism” after World War II see: Robert Ellwood, The Fifties Spiritual Marketplace: American Religion in a Decade of Conflict (Rutgers University Press, 1997).

[50] See: Roy Palmer Domenico, “‘For The Cause of Christ Here in Italy’: America’s Protestant Challenge in Italy and the Cultural Ambiguity of the Cold War”, Diplomatic History (Oxford University Press), Vol. 29, no. 4 (September 2005), 625-654 and Owen Chadwick, The Christian Church in the Cold War (England: Harmondsworth, 1993).

[51] See: “Porta aperta ai trust americani la firma del trattato Sforza-Dunn”, l’Unità, February 2, 1948, 4 and “Firmato da Sforza e da Dunn il trattato con gli Stati Uniti”, l’Avanti! (Roman Edition), February 2, 1948, 1. The newspapers l’Unità and l’Avanti! they were respectively the press organ of the Italian Communist Party and the Italian Socialist Party. The latter, at the time, was on pro-Soviet and Marxist positions.

[52] On the activity of the Catholic Church after World War II, see: Maurilio Guasco, Chiesa e cattolicesimo in Italia (1945-2000), (Bologna, 2005); Andrea Riccardi, “La chiesa cattolica in Italia nel secondo dopoguerra”, Gabriele De Rosa, Tullio Gregory, André Vauchez (ed.), Storia dell’Italia religiosa: 3. L’età contemporanea, (Roma-Bari: Laterza, 1995), 335-359; Pietro Scoppola, “Chiesa e società negli anni della modernizzazione”, Andrea Riccardi (ed.), Le chiese di Pio XII (Roma-Bari: Laterza, 1986), 3-19; Elio Guerriero, I cattolici e il dopoguerra (Milano 2005); Francesco Traniello, Città dell’uomo. Cattolici, partito e stato nella storia d’Italia (Bologna 1998); Vittorio De Marco, Le barricate invisibili. La chiesa in Italia tra politica e società (1945-1978), (Galatina 1994); Francesco Malgieri, Chiesa, cattolici e democrazia: da Sturzo a De Gasperi, (Brescia 1990); Giovanni Miccoli, “Chiesa, partito cattolico e società civile”, Fra mito della cristianità e secolarizzazione. Studi sul rapporto chiesa-società nell’età contemporanea (Casale Monferrato 1985), 371-427; Andrea Riccardi, Roma «città sacra»? Dalla Conciliazione all’operazione Sturzo (Milano 1979); Antonio Prandi, Chiesa e politica: la gerarchia e l’impegno politico dei cattolici in Italia (Bologna 1968).

[53] According to the Italian Embassy in Washington, “310 deputies and senators” of Congress had intervened “in writing or in person, at the State Department” in favor of the Church of Christ. See: ASMAE [Historical Archive at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Political Affairs], Holy See, 1950-1957, b. 1688, of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, December 22, 1949; ASMAE, Holy See, 1950, b. 25, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Febriary 16, 1950; ASMAE, Holy See, 1950-1957, b. 1688, letter and secret note from the Italian embassy in Washington, March 2, 1950; ASMAE, Holy See, 1950-1957, b. 1688, of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 31/3/1950; ASMAE, Holy See, 1950-1957, b. 1687, written “secret and personal” of the Italian Embassy in Washington to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, May 15, 1953, all quoted on Paolo Piccioli [2001], 170.

[54] On the difficult situation for a-Catholic cults in post-war Italy, see: Sergio Lariccia, Stato e chiesa In Italia (1948-1980) (Brescia: Queriniana, 1981), 7-27; Id., “La libertà religiosa nella società italiana”, on Teoria e prassi delle libertà di religione (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1975), 313-422; Giorgio Peyrot, Gli evangelici nei loro rapporti con lo stato dal fascismo ad oggi (Torre Pellice: Società di Studi Valdesi, 1977), 3-27; Arturo Carlo Jemolo, “Le libertà garantite dagli artt. 8, 9, 21 della Costituzione”, Il diritto ecclesiastico, (1952), 405-420; Giorgio Spini, “Le minoranze protestanti in Italia”, Il Ponte (June 1950), 670-689; Id., “La persecuzione contro gli evangelici in Italia”, Il Ponte (January 1953), 1-14; Giacomo Rosapepe, Inquisizione addomesticata, (Bari: Laterza, 1960); Luigi Pestalozza, Il diritto di non tremolare. La condizione delle minoranze religiose in Italia (Milan-Rome: Edizioni Avanti!, 1956); Ernesto Ayassot, I protestanti in Italia (Milan: Area 1962), 85 133.

[55] ASMAE, Holy See, 1947, b. 8, fasc. 8, apostolic nunciature of Italy, September 3, 1947, to His Excellency the Hon. Carlo Sforza, Foreign Minister. The latter will reply “I told the nuncio that he can count on our desire to avoid what can hurt feelings and what pressure may seem”. ASMAE, DGAP [Directorate General for Political Affairs], Office VII, Holy See, September 13, 1947. In another note addressed to the Directorate General for Political Affairs of the Foreign Ministry on September 19, 1947, we read that art. 11 had no “justification in a treaty with Italy (…) for the liberal traditions of the Italian state in matters of cults”. In a note (“Summary Minutes”) of November 23, 1947 the United States delegation took note of the problems raised by the Vatican, all mentioned in Paolo Piccioli [2001], 171.

[56] ASMAE, Holy See, 1947, b. 8, fasc. 8, apostolic nunciature of Italy, note dated October 1, 1947. In a subsequent note, the nuncio asked to add the following amendment: “Citizens of a Contracting Higher Party will be able within the territories of the other Contracting Party to exercise the right of freedom of conscience and religion in accordance with the constitutional laws of the two High contracting parties”. ASMAE, DGAP, Office VII, Holy See, September 13, 1947, mentioned in Paolo Piccioli [2001], 171.

[57] ASMAE, Holy See, 1947, b. 8, fasc. 8, “Summary Minutes” by the US delegation, October 2, 1947; memo from the Italian delegation on the session of October 3, 1947. In a note from the Foreign Ministry dated October 4, 1947 it was stated that “the clauses contained in art. 11 regarding freedom of conscience and religion […] are not actually usual in a treaty of friendship, trade and navigation. There are precedents only in treaties ordinarily stipulated between two states not of equal civilization ”, mentioned in Paolo Piccioli [2001], 171.

[58] Msgr. Domenico Tardini, of the Secretariat of State of the Holy See, in a letter dated 4/10/1947, noted that article 11 of the treaty was “seriously damaging to the rights of the Catholic Church, solemnly sanctioned in the Lateran Treaty”. “Would it be humiliating for Italy, as well as outrageous for the Holy See, to include the planned article in a trade treaty?” ASMAE, Holy See, 1947, b. 8, fasc. 8, letter from Msgr. Tardini to the apostolic nuncio, October 4, 1947. But the amendments will not be accepted by the US delegation, which communicated to the Italian one that the Washington government, taking against the “American public opinion”, with a Protestant and evangelical majority, which could “also put the Treaty itself into play and prejudice Vatican-American relations”. ASMAE, Holy See, 1947, b. 8, fasc. 8, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, DGAP, Office VII, precisely for Minister Zoppi, October 17, 1947.

[59] George Fredianelli’s autobiography, entitled “Aperta una grande porta che conduce ad attività”, was published in the La Torre di Guardia (Italian edition), April 1, 1974, 198-203 (Eng. Edition: “A Large Door Leading to Activity Opens”, The Watchtower, November 11, 1973, 661-666).

[60] Annuario dei Testimoni di Geova del 1983, 184-188.

[61] The letters addressed to the Ministry of the Interior, dated April 11, 1949 and September 22, 1949, now in ACC [Archives of the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses of Rome, in Italy], are mentioned in Paolo Piccioli [2001], 168. The negative responses of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are in ASMAE, US Political Affairs, 1949, b. 38, fasc. 5, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, dated July 8, 1949, October 6, 1949 and September 19, 1950.

[62] ZStA – Rome, MI, Cabinet, 1953-1956, b. 271/General part.

[63] See: Giorgio Spini, “Le minoranze protestanti in Italia”, Il Ponte (June 1950), 682.

[64] “Attività dei testimoni di Geova in Italia”, La Torre di Guardia, March 1, 1951, 78-79, unsigned correspondence (as a practice in the JWs from 1942 onwards) from the American edition of the 1951 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses. See: Annuario dei Testimoni di Geova del 1983, 190-192.

[65] ZStA – Rome, MI, Cabinet, 1953-1956, 1953-1956, b. 266/Plomaritis and Morse. See: ZStA – Rome, MI, Cabinet, 1953-1956, b. 266, letter from the Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs, dated April 9, 1953; ZStA – Rome, MI, Cabinet, 1953-1956, b. 270/Brescia, prefecture of Brescia, September 28, 1952;  ZStA – Rome, MI, Cabinet, 1957-1960, b. 219/American Protestant Missionaries and Pastors, Ministry of the Interior, Directorate General for Worship Affairs, precisely for the Hon. Bisori, undated, quoted in Paolo Piccioli [2001], 173.

[66] Paolo Piccioli [2001], 173, which he mentions in the text ZStA – Rome, MI, Cabinet, 1953-1956, 1953-1956, b. 266/Plomaritis and Morse and ZStA – Rome, MI, Cabinet, 1953-1956, b. 270/Bologna. 

[67] Take, for example, what happened in a town in the Treviso area, Cavaso del Tomba, in 1950. At the request of the Pentecostals to obtain a water connection for one of their missionary homes, the Christian Democratic municipality replied with a letter dated April 6, 1950, protocol no. 904: “As a result of your request dated 31 March last, relating to the object [application for the concession of water leasing for domestic use], we inform you that the municipal council has determined, considering to interpret the will of the majority of the population, to not being able to grant you the lease of water for domestic use in the house located in Vicolo Buso no 3, because this house is inhabited by the well-known Mr. Marin Enrico was Giacomo, who exercises the Pentecostal cult in the country, which, in addition to being prohibited by the Italian State, upsets the Catholic sentiment of the vast majority of the population of this Municipality.” See: Luigi Pestalozza, Il diritto di non tremolare. La condizione delle minoranze religiose in Italia (Milano: Edizione l’Avanti!, 1956).

[68] The police authorities of Christian Democratic Italy, following these rules, will lend themselves to the work of repression against the JWs who in fact offered religious literature from door to door in exchange for a negligible sum. Paolo Piccioli, in his research on the work of the Watch Tower Society in Italy from 1946 to 1976, reports that the prefect of Ascoli Piceno, for example, asked for instructions on the matter from the Minister of the Interior and was told to “give the police precise provisions so that the propaganda work of the members of the association in question [Jehovah’s Witnesses] is prevented in any way” (see: ZStA – Rome, MI, Cabinet, 1953-1956, b. 270/Ascoli Piceno, note dated April 10, 1953, Ministry of the Interior, General Directorate of Public Security). In fact, the government commissioner for the Trentino-Alto Adige Region in the report dated January 12, 1954 (now in ZStA – Rome, MI, Cabinet, 1953-1956, b. 271/Trento, quoted in Idem.) Reported: “Not on the other hand, they can be prosecuted [the JWs] for their religious opinions, as the Trentino clergy would like, who have often turned to the police station in the past ”. The prefect of Bari, on the other hand, received the following instructions “so that the propaganda […] work is prevented in any way both in the proselytizing action and in that concerning the distribution of printed matter and posters” (ZStA – Rome, MI, Cabinet, 1953-1956, b. 270 / Bari, note from the Ministry of the Interior, May 7, 1953). In this regard, see: Paolo Piccioli [2001], 177.

[69] See: Ragioniamo facendo uso delle Scritture (Rome: Congregazione Cristiana dei Testimoni di Geova, 1985), 243-249.

[70] Letter from the Roman branch of the JWs signed SCB:SSB, dated August 14, 1980.

[71] Letter from the Rome branch of the JWs signed SCC: SSC, dated July 15, 1978.

[72] Extract from private correspondence between the Governing Body and Achille Aveta, quoted in the book of Achille Aveta [1985], 129.

[73] Linda Laura Sabbadini, The ISTAT (National Statistical Institute) is an Italian public research body that deals with general censuses of the population, services and industry, and agriculture, household sample surveys and general economic surveys at national level.

[74] “Continuiamo a vivere come ‘residenti temporanei’”, Le Torre di Guardia (Study Edition), December 2012, 20.

[75] Letter from the Rome branch of the JWs signed SB, dated December 18, 1959, photographically reproduced in Achille Aveta and Sergio Pollina, Scontro fra totalitarismi: nazifascismo e geovismo (Città del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2000), 34, and published in the appendix. The political transformation of the JW leadership, without the knowledge of the adepts in good faith, focusing only on Italy, becomes blatant because, in order to obtain radio and television spaces in the “access programs” to be able to hold biblical conferences, television and radio, the leaders of the cult millennialists present themselves, despite the professed neutrality and despite the prohibition of any adept from participating in any political and patriotic demonstration, such as those held every year in Italy on April 25 to commemorate the end of the Second World War and the Liberation from Nazi-fascism, as one of the most convinced supporters of the republican values of the anti-fascist resistance; in fact, in a letter dated September 17, 1979 addressed to the top management of RAI [the company that is the exclusive concessionaire of the public radio and television service in Italy, ed.] and to the President of the Parliamentary Commission for the supervision of RAI services, the legal representative of the Watch Tower Society in Italy wrote: “In a system, like the Italian one, which is based on values of the Resistance, Jehovah’s Witnesses are one of the very few groups that has dared to put reasons of conscience before pre-war power in Germany and Italy. therefore they express noble ideals in contemporary reality”. Letter from the Rome branch of the JWs signed EQA:SSC, dated September 17, 1979, mentioned in Achille Aveta [1985], 134, and photographically reproduced in Achille Aveta and Sergio Pollina [2000], 36-37 and published in the appendix. Aveta noted that the Roman branch advised the recipients of the letter “to make very confidential use of the contents of this letter”, because if it ended up in the hands of the followers it would upset them.

[76] Letter from the Rome branch of the JWs signed CB, dated June 23, 1954.

[77] Letter from the Rome branch of the JWs signed CE, dated October 12, 1954, and published in the appendix.

[78] Letter from the Rome branch of the JWs signed CB, dated October 28, 1954.

[79] On the Atlanticism of the PSDI (formerly PSLI) see: Daniele Pipitone, Il socialismo democratico italiano fra Liberazione e Legge Truffa. Fratture, ricomposizioni e culture politiche di un’area di frontiera (Milano: Ledizioni, 2013), 217-253; on that of the Pri di La Malfa see: Paolo Soddu, “Ugo La Malfa e il nesso nazionale/internazionale dal Patto Atlantico alla Presidenza Carter”, Atlantismo ed europeismo, Piero Craveri and Gaetano Quaglierello (ed.) (Soveria Mannelli: Rubbettino, 2003), 381-402; on the PLI, who expressed the figure of Gaetano Martini as Minister of Foreign Affairs in the 1950s, see: Claudio Camarda, Gaetano Martino e la politica estera italiana. “Un liberale messinese e l’idea europea”, degree thesis in political science, supervisor prof. Federico Niglia, Luiss Guido Carli, session 2012-2013 and R. Battaglia, Gaetano Martino e la politica estera italiana (1954-1964) (Messina: Sfameni, 2000).

[80] La Voce Repubblicana, January 20, 1954. See: Annuario dei Testimoni di Geova del 1983, 214-215; Paolo Piccioli and Max Wörnhard, “Jehovas Zeugen – ein Jahrhunder Unterdrückung, Watchturm, Anerkennung”, Jehovas Zeugen in Europa: Geschichte und Gegenwart, Vol. 1, Belgien, Frenkreich, Griechenland, Italien, Luxemburg, Niederlande, Purtugal und Spanien, Gerhard Besier, Katarzyna Stokłosa (ed.), Jehovas Zeugen in Europa: Geschichte und Gegenwart, Vol. 1, Belgien, Frenkreich, Griechenland, Italien, Luxemburg, Niederlande, Purtugal und Spanien, (Berlino: LIT Verlag, 2013), 384 and Paolo Piccioli [2001], 174, 175.

[81] Accusations of this kind, accompanied by persecution of publishers, are listed in the Annuario dei Testimoni di Geova del 1983 on pp. 196-218. The Catholic accusation made against non-Catholic cults of being “communists” is revealed in a circular dated October 5, 1953, sent by the then undersecretary to the presidency of the Council of Ministers to various Italian prefects, which will lead to investigations. The State Archives of Alessandria, noted Paolo Piccioli on p. 187 of his research on Italian JWs in the post-war period, preserves extensive documentation relating to the investigation carried out in implementation of these provisions, and noted that on November 16, 1953 the report of the Carabinieri of Alessandria stated that “All apart from the means used by professors of the ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ rite, there appears to have been no other forms of religious propaganda […] [it is excluded] there may be a logical link between the above propaganda and the action of left ”, contradicting this accusation.

[82] “I comunisti italiani e la Chiesa Cattolica”, La Torre di Guardia, January 15, 1956, 35-36 (Engl. Edition: “Italian Communists and the Catholic Church”, The Watchtower, June 15, 1955, 355-356).

[83] In Italy, over 99 per cent Catholic, far left and communist parties won 35.5 per cent of the vote in the last national elections, and this constituted an increase” noting that “communism penetrates into the Catholic population of these countries, but even affects the clergy, particularly in France “, citing the case of “a French Catholic priest and Dominican monk, Maurice Montuclard, was expelled from the Hierarchy for having published in 1952 a book expressing Marxist views , as well as for having headed the “Youth of the Church” movement which expressed a pronounced sympathy for the Communist Party in France “a not isolated case given that there are episodes of priests who are members of the Marxist union of the CGT or who took off their cassock to work in factory, leading the Watchtower to ask: “What kind of bulwark against communism is the Roman Catholic Church, when it cannot allow its own priests, imbued with Roman Catholic dogma from the earliest childhood, are exposed to red propaganda? Why on earth do these priests show interest in the social, political and economic reform of Marxism more than in the preaching of their religion? Isn’t it because there is some error in their spiritual diet? Yes, there is an immanent weakness in the Roman Catholic approach to the communist problem. It does not realize that true Christianity has nothing in common with this old world, but it must keep separate from it. Out of selfish interest, the Hierarchy makes friends with Cesare, making arrangements with Hitler, Mussolini and Franco, and is willing to negotiate with Communist Russia if it can thus gain advantages for itself; yes, even with the Devil himself, according to Pope Pius XI. – Eagle of Brooklyn, February 21, 1943.” “I comunisti convertono sacerdoti cattolici”, La Torre di Guardia, December 1, 1954, 725-727.

[84]  “Un’assemblea internazionale a Roma”, La Torre di Guardia, July 1, 1952, 204.

[85] “L’‘Anno Santo’ quali risultati ha conseguito?”, Svegliatevi!, August 22, 1976, 11.

[86] See: Zoe Knox, “The Watch Tower Society and the End of the Cold War: Interpretations of the End-Times, Superpower Conflict, and the Changing Geo-Political Order”, Journal of the American Academy of Religion (Oxford University Press), Vol. 79, no. 4 (December 2011), 1018-1049.

[87] The new cold war between the United States of America and the Russian Federation, which banned the Watch Tower Society from its territories since 2017, has led the Governing Body to a special meeting, saying that it has identified the last king of the North. that is Russia and its allies, as reiterated recently: “Over time Russia and its allies assumed the role of king of the north. (…) Why can we say that Russia and its allies are the current king of the north? (1) They directly affect God’s people by banning the preaching work and persecuting hundreds of thousands of brothers and sisters living in territories under their control; (2) by these actions they show that they hate Jehovah and his people; (3) they clash with the king of the south, the Anglo-American world power, in a struggle for power. (…) In recent years, Russia and its allies have also entered the “Splendid Country” [biblically it is Israel, identified here with the “chosen” 144,000 who will go to heaven, the “Israel of God”, ed]. How? In 2017, the current king of the north banned our work and put some of our brothers and sisters in prison. It has also banned our publications, including the New World Translation. He also confiscated our branch in Russia, as well as Kingdom Halls and Assembly Halls. After these actions, the Governing Body explained in 2018 that Russia and its allies are the king of the north.” “Chi è il ‘re del Nord’ oggi?”, La Torre di Guardia (Study Edition), May 2020, 12-14.

[88] Giorgio Peyrot, La circolare Buffarini-Guidi e i pentecostali (Rome: Associazione Italiana per la Libertà della Cultura, 1955), 37-45.

[89] Constitutional Court, judgment no. 1 of June 14, 1956, Giurisprudenza costituzionale, 1956, 1-10.

[90] Paolo Piccioli [2001], 188-189. On the sentence see: S. Lariccia, La libertà  religiosa nel la società italiana, cit., pp. 361-362; Id., Diritti civili e fattore religioso (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1978), 65. For an official record of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania see the magazine Svegliatevi! of April 22, 1957, 9-12.

[91] As reiterated in the Annuario dei Testimoni di Geova del 1983, 214, which reports: “The faithful brothers knew they had suffered injustice for their stand and, even though they did not care unduly about their reputation in the eyes of the world, they decided to ask for a review of the process to claim the rights of Jehovah’s Witnesses as a people ”(italics in the text, understood as“ Jehovah’s people ”, that is, all Italian JWs).

[92] Judgment n. 50 of April 19, 1940, published in Tribunale Speciale per la difesa dello Stato. Decisioni emesse nei 1940, Ministry of Defence (ed.) (Rome: Fusa, 1994), 110-120

[93] Quoted in the Abruzzi-L’Aquila Court of Appeal, sentence no. 128 of March 20, 1957, “Persecuzione fascista e giustizia democratica ai Testimoni di Geova”, with note of Sergio Tentarelli, Rivista abruzzese di studi storici dal fascismo alla Resistenza, vol. 2, no 1 (1981), 183-191 and in Various Authors, Minoranze, coscienza e dovere della memoria (Naples: Jovene, 2001), appendix IX. The statement of the magistrates is quoted in Annuario dei Testimoni di Geova del 1983, 215.

[94] Note dated August 12, 1948 from the Directorate General for Worship Affairs, in ZStA – Rome, MI, Cabinet, 1953-1956, b. 271/General part.

[95] A shameful case of religious intolerance against the JWs, which occurred in 1961, was recorded in Savignano Irpino (Avellino), where the Catholic priest illegally entered the home of a JW where a funeral ceremony was about to be held for the death of his mother. The parish priest, flanked by another priest and the carabinieri, will prevent the funeral ceremony that was taking place with the rite of the JWs, transferring the body to the local church and imposing a Catholic rite ceremony, subsequently bringing the authorities to intervene, condemning the people involved. See: Court of Ariano Irpino, judgment of July 7, 1964, Giurisprudenza italiana, II (1965), coll. 150-161 and II diritto ecclesiastico, II (1967), 378-386.

[96] Intolleranza religiosa alle soglie del Duemila [1990], 20-22 e 285-292.

[97] See, the following letters from the Roman branch of the JWs addressed “To the elderly recognized as ministers of worship” of June 7, 1977 and to “… those who are enrolled in INAM as religious ministers” of Octber 10, 1978, which speaks access to the Fund reserved for religious ministers on the basis of Law 12/22/1973 n. 903 for pension rights, and the letter dated September 17, 1978, addressed to “All congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Italy”, which regulates the law of religious marriage with internal ministers of worship authorized by the Italian Republic.

[98] The definition is by Marcus Bach, “The Startling Witnesses”, The Christian Century, no 74, February 13, 1957, p. 197. This opinion has not been current for some time now. According to the report provided by the 2006 Yearbook of Churches, Jehovah’s Witnesses, along with many other religions on the American Christian landscape, are now in a phase of stable decline. The percentages of decrease of the main churches in the United States are the following (all negative): Southern Baptist Union: – 1.05; United Methodist Church: – 0.79; Lutheran Evangelical Church: – 1.09; Presbyterian Church: – 1.60; Episcopal Church: – 1.55; American Baptist Church: – 0.57; United Church of Christ: – 2.38; Jehovah’s Witnesses: – 1.07. On the other hand, there are also churches that are growing, and among them: Catholic Church: + 0.83%; Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons): + 1.74%; Assemblies of God: + 1.81%; Orthodox Church: + 6.40%. The order of growth, therefore, according to this highly authoritative and historic publication, shows that in first place among the Pentecostal and those of the non-traditional American current are the Assemblies of God, followed by Mormons and the Catholic Church. It is evident that the golden years of the Witnesses are now over.

[99] M. James Penton [2015], 467, nt. 36.

[100] See: Johan Leman, “I testimoni di Geova nell’immigrazione siciliana in Belgio. Una lettura antropologica”, Argomenti, vol. II, no. 6 (April-June 1987), 20-29; Id., “The Italo-Brussels Jehovah’s Witnesses Revisited: From First Generation Religious Fundamentalism to Ethno-Religious Community Formation”, Social Compass, vol. 45, no. 2 (June 1998), 219-226; Id., From Challenging Culture to Challenged Culture. The Sicilian Cultural Code and the Socio-Cultural Praxis of Sicilian Immigrants in Belgium (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1987). See: Luigi Berzano and Massimo Introvigne, La sfida infinita. La nuova religiosità nella Sicilia centrale (Caltanissetta-Rome: Sciascia, 1994).

[101] La Torre di Guardia, April 1, 1962, 218.

[102] Data reported by Achille Aveta [1985], 149, and obtained from the intersection of two internal sources, namely the Annuario dei Testimoni di Geova del 1983 and by the various Ministeri del Regno, a monthly bulletin within the movement that was distributed to publishers only, baptized and non-baptized. It presented the weekly program of the three meetings which had once been distributed at the beginning of the week and in the middle, and subsequently merged towards the middle of the week, in a single evening: “Study of the book”, subsequently “Study of the Biblical Congregation” (first a now, then 30 minutes); “Theocratic Ministry School” (first 45 minutes, then approximately 30 minutes) and “Service Meeting” (first 45 minutes, then approximately 30 minutes). The Ministero is used precisely during these three meetings, especially in the “Service Meeting”, where the witnesses are spiritually trained and receive useful instructions for everyday life. It also contained presentations of well-known publications distributed by Jehovah’s Witnesses, La Torre di Guardia and Svegliatevi!, to prepare or advise members on how to leave these magazines in preaching. The Ministero del Regno finished publishing in 2015. It was replaced in 2016 by a new monthly, Vita Cristiana e Ministero.

[103] M. James Penton [2015], 123.

[104] Vita eterna nella libertà dei Figli di Dio (Brooklyn, NY: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. – International Bible Students Association, 1967), 28, 29.

[105] Ibid., 28-30.

[106] The 1968 edition of La verità book contained subtle quotes pointing to the fact that the world could not survive past 1975. “Furthermore, as was reported in 1960, a former US Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, declared that our time is” a time of unmatched instability, of unmatched violence. ” And he warned, “I know enough about what’s going on to assure you that, in fifteen years, this world will be too dangerous to live in.” (…) More recently, the book entitled “Famine – 1975!” (Carestia: 1975! “) Said of today’s food shortages:” Hunger is rampant in one country after another, in one continent after another around the underdeveloped strip of the tropics and sub-tropics. Today’s crisis can only go in one direction: towards catastrophe. Starving nations today, starving nations tomorrow. In 1975, civil unrest, anarchy, military dictatorships, high inflation, transport disruptions and chaotic unrest will be the order of the day in many starving nations.” La verità che conduce alla vita eterna (Brooklyn, NY: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. – International Bible Students Association, 1968), 9, 88, 89. The revised edition published in 1981 replaced these quotations as follows: “Furthermore, as was reported in 1960, a former US Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, declared that our time is” a time of unmatched instability, of unmatched violence. “And, based on what he saw happening in the world at the time, he came to the conclusion that soon “this world will be too dangerous to live in.” Recent reports point out that the constant lack of adequate food, resulting in chronic malnutrition, has become the “major problem related to hunger today.” The Times of London says that: “There have always been famines, but the dimension and ubiquity [ie the fact that they are present everywhere] of hunger today are presented on a whole new scale. (…) Today malnutrition affects more than a billion people; perhaps no less than four hundred million live constantly on the threshold of starvation.” The words of Dean Acheson that referred to fifteen years starting from 1960 as the limit for the livability of the world were deleted, and the statements in the book “Famine: 1975” were completely replaced with less catastrophic and certainly undated ones from The Times from London!

[107] To the question “How do you go about finishing unproductive Bible studies?” The Ministero del Regno (Italian Edition), March 1970, page 4, answered: “This is a question we need to consider if any of our current studies have been held for about six months. Are they already coming to congregation meetings, and are they beginning to renew their lives in harmony with what they have learned from God’s Word? If so, we want to continue helping them. But if not, perhaps we can use our time more profitably to witness to others.” The Ministero del Regno (Italian edition) of November 1973, on page 2, is even more explicit: “… By choosing a particular question, he indicates what interests him and this will help you decide which chapter of the book Truth to study. Our Bible study program is described on page 3 of the tract. It answers the questions: Where? When? Who? and What? Consider the various points with him. Perhaps you will want to tell him, for example, that the tract is your written guarantee that our service is completely free. Explain that the course of study lasts six months and that we dedicate about an hour a week. Altogether it is equivalent to about one day of one’s life. Of course, people of good heart will want to dedicate a day of their life to learn about God.”

[108] “Perché attendete il 1975?”, La Torre di Guardia, February 1, 1969, 84, 85. See: “Che cosa recheranno gli anni settanta?”, Svegliatevi!, April 22,  1969, 13-16.

[109] See: M. James Penton [2015], 125. At the 1967 District Convention, Wisconsin Sheboygan District Overseer Brother Charles Sinutko presented the talk “Serving with Everlasting Life in View”, making the following statement: “”Well now, as Jehovah’s Witnesses, as runners, even though some of us have become a little weary, it almost seems as though Jehovah has provided meat in due season. Because he’s held up before all of us, a new goal. A new year. Something to reach out for and it just seems it has given all of us so much more energy and power in this final burst of speed to the finish line. And that’s the year 1975. Well, we don’t have to guess what the year 1975 means if we read the Watchtower. And don’t wait ’till 1975. The door is going to be shut before then. As one brother put it, ‘Stay alive to Seventy-Five’” In November 1968, District Overseer Duggan announced at the Pampa Texas Assembly that “not really a full 83 months remains, so lets be faithful and confident and … we will be alive beyond the war of Armageddon…,” which therefore slated Armageddon by October 1975 (The audio file with these parts of the two speeches in the original language is available on the site

[110] “Che ne fate della vostra vita?”, Ministero del Regno (Italian Edition), June 1974, 2.

[111] See: Paolo Giovannelli and Michele Mazzotti, Il profetastro di Brooklin e gli ingenui galoppini (Riccione; 1990), 108, 110, 114

[112] Giancarlo Farina, La Torre di Guardia alla luce delle Sacre Scritture (Torino, 1981).  

[113] See for example the Venetian newspaper Il Gazzettino of 12 March 1974 in the article “La fine del mondo è vicina: verrà nell’autunno del 1975” (“The end of the world is near: it will come in the autumn of 1975”) and the article in the weekly Novella 2000 of September 10, 1974 entitled “I cattivi sono avvertiti: nel 1975 moriranno tutti” (“The bad guys are warned: in 1975 they will all die”).

[114] Letter from the Italian branch of JW, signed SCB: SSA, dated September 9, 1975, which we will report in the appendix.

[115] See: La Torre di Guardia, September 1, 1980, 17.

[116] After the passing of 1975, the Watchtower Society continued to emphasize the teaching that God would execute his judgment on humankind before the generation of people who had witnessed the events of 1914 had all died. For example, from 1982 to 1995, the inside cover of Svegliatevi! magazine included, in its mission statement, a reference to the “generation of 1914”, alluding to “the Creator’s promise (…) of a peaceful and secure new world before the generation that saw the events of 1914 passes away.” In June 1982, during District Conventions “Verità del Regno” (“Kingdom Truths”) held around the world by JWs, in the USA and in various other places, including Italy, a new Bible study publication was presented, replacing the book La Verità che conduce alla vita eterna, which had been “revised”, for the risky statements about 1975, in 1981: Potete vivere per sempre su una terra paradisiaca, as recommended starting with the Ministero del Regno (Italian Edition), February 1983, on page 4. In this book there is a lot of emphasis on the generation of 1914. On page 154 it says: What generation was Jesus referring to? The generation of people alive in 1914. The remnants of that generation are now very old. But some of them will be alive when the end of this wicked system comes. So we can be sure of this: the sudden end of all wickedness and all wicked people in Armageddon will soon come.” In 1984, almost to commemorate the eighty years of 1914, they were published from September 1 to October 15, 1984 (for the Italian edition, however. In the United States they will come out earlier, from April 1 to May 15 of the same year) four consecutive issues of La Torre di Guardia magazine, focusing on prophetic date of 1914, with the last number whose title, emphatically, stated on the cover: “1914: La generazione che non passerà” (“1914 –The Generation That Will Not Pass Away”).

[117] 1977 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, 30.

[118] 1978 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, 30.

[119] Thanks to the Italian YouTuber JWTruman who provided me with the graphics. See: “Crescita dei TdG in Italia prima del 1975”, and the long documentary “Testimoni di Geova e 1975: un salto nel passato”, produced by JWTruman, M. James Penton, writes on world declines after 1975: “According to the 1976 and 1980 Yearbooks , there were 17,546 fewer Jehovah’s Witness publishers in Nigeria in 1979 than in 1975. In Germany there were 2,722 fewer. And in Great Britain, there was a loss of 1,102 over the same period of time.” M. James Penton [2015], 427, nt. 6.


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