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The Global Reach and Lasting Legacy of Italian Pentecostalism: An Interview with Paul Palma


Pneuma Review: What do you think the lasting legacy of the Italian Pentecostal Movement will be?

Paul Palma: The movement will leave a lasting legacy in a number of respects. As an historically Catholic people, Italians who subsequently became Pentecostal brought with them a certain sacramentality. Italian Pentecostals highly revere the cardinal sacraments of the Church—water baptism, as a public declaration of faith, and Communion, as a means of cultivating spiritual intimacy with Christ. Healing with anointing oil also carries sacramental significance, with the oil symbolizing consecration and the power of the Holy Spirit. Speaking in tongues even is articulated in sacramental terms, as the evidence and outward sign of the baptism in the Spirit, the defining characteristic of the movement.

Another legacy of the movement will be its missionary emphasis. The CCNA originally incorporated as a missionary society, structured around the attempt to balance domestic and foreign ventures, with the work overseas eventually taking a priority. Today the denomination has missionaries in forty-four countries. The Congregação Cristã is responsible for sister churches in about sixty nations. The global dimensions of the movement derive from the pioneering missionary efforts of its founders. The migrant identity of the early Italian Pentecostals, as a people who had crossed the Atlantic after being uprooted from their homeland during dearth socioeconomic times, gave the movement a certain mobility. The men and women who formed the nucleus of the early missionary efforts of the movement, having learned to adapt to a new culture in their journey to America, had an edge-up when it came to moving with the gospel into foreign and unfamiliar fields.

Lastly, something I hope will endure as a legacy of the movement is the beloved hymnal. The original hymnal can still be found in churches in Brazil which, at its peak, contained nearly 600 hymns. While some of the hymns included are translations of English hymns, many are original pieces penned by members of the movement.



Related Interview:

Total Surrender: Finding Messiah at an Italian Pentecostal Church, an interview with Michael Brown


More about Paul Palma’s book:

In this short video, Dr. Paul Palma speaks about his new book about the Italian-American Pentecostal Movement.


Publisher’s page for Italian American Pentecostalism and the Struggle for Religious Identity:


Preview Italian American Pentecostalism and the Struggle for Religious Identity:

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Category: Church History, Fall 2019

About the Author: Paul J. Palma, PhD, is Adjunct Professor of Biblical Studies and Christian Ministry at Regent University. Paul’s research centers on global Pentecostal-charismatic movements. His work has been published in a number of national and international journals. His book, Italian American Pentecostalism and the Struggle for Religious Identity has recently been published with the Routledge Studies in Religion series. LinkedIn page. Facebook.

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