Obedience Has Its Rewards
Giovani Traettino leads a network of Pentecostal Churches in Italy. For years Pentecostals had experienced persecution from Italian Catholics. So in 1992, when Giovani was invited to speak to a large meeting of Catholic Charismatics in Bari, Italy, he felt conflicted. He loved preaching the gospel, but he didn’t want to betray persecuted believers by attending the meeting. He consulted with some leaders he respected, and they encouraged him to accept the invitation.
Giovani joined thousands of people attending the meeting. He felt troubled in his soul, not just because he was entering into worship with those with whom he had such differences, but because the Lord had spoken to his heart about an act of humility. He sensed the Holy Spirit prompting him to wash the feet of one of the Catholic Franciscans on the platform.
After initially resisting this leading from the Spirit, Giovani decided to obey. In the midst of the meeting with thousands of people watching, Giovani knelt down and began to wash the feet of a man wearing a flowing brown robe. As people saw what was happening, the Holy Spirit swept through the congregation. Throughout the stadium, people began to weep in repentance. It was a special moment sealed by grace in the hearts of those in attendance.
In later years, Giovani began to travel to Africa and South America, leading meetings of reconciliation between Catholic and Evangelical leaders. He made several trips to Argentina where he became friends with Jorge Bergoglio, the Archbishop of Buenos Aries. They prayed together many times and shared their passion for Christ.
In March of 2013, Giovani was driving in Caserta, Italy with his son Luigi, when his cell phone rang. Luigi picked up his dad’s phone and heard a voice with a Spanish accent. “Hello, this is Pope Francis, I would like to talk to my friend Giovani.”
“Sure. This is Saint Peter. How can I help you?” Luigi replied.
“No. This really is Pope Francis. I would like to talk with my friend Giovani.”
“Yes, and this really is St. Peter,” Luigi said again, “How can I help you?”
They went back and forth several times before it dawned on Luigi that this was not a prank call. He handed the phone to his dad. Jorge Bergoglio had now become Pope Francis, but he still wanted to stay in touch with his friend Giovani.
Giovani came to Phoenix last month with his wife and friends from Italy. We held meetings at Living Streams which were attended by Bishops Thomas Olmsted and Eduardo Navares, who together oversee a million Catholics as well as many schools and ministries in Arizona. The Bishops had responded to a letter Giovani had brought with him from Pope Francis, urging us to recognize that we belong to the same spiritual family in Christ.
As a young believer I often focused on the doctrinal differences I had with Christians from other groups. I know some so-called Christians are apostate and others tolerate legalism or moral error. However, I now find the diversity of genuine believers refreshing. There is only one Body of Christ. We have many differences and distinctions, but in God’s eyes He has only one family. Those who love Jesus and obey His Word need to love one another as Christ commands.