THE Chief of the Staff (Commissioner André Cox) played a leading role in an historic day for The Salvation Army in Italy when he commissioned and ordained four Salvation Army officers. Lieutenants Luigi and Valentina Capuano, and Luca and Francesca Longo were the first officers to be trained and commissioned in their homeland for 54 years.
The weekend's events began with a two day spiritual retreat at Villa Sorriso, where the Chief of the Staff and Commissioner Silvia Cox (World President of Women's Ministries) joined the cadets, command leaders and officers who were involved in the training of the cadets for a time of prayer and meditation.
Officer Commanding Lieut-Colonel Daniel Naud welcomed special guests, representatives of civic authorities and other churches to the commissioning meeting, which was held in the Methodist Church in Rome. General Secretary Major David Cavanagh added words of introduction and explanation.
The Chief of the Staff gave recognition to four officers present who had been among those cadets commissioned more than 50 years ago. Referring to the cadets about to become officers the Chief said: 'Pray for these new officers as they take up the flame.' Speaking about the need for more officers, the Chief noted that the addition of four new officers increased the Italy and Greece Command’s officer-strength by 20 per cent!
Lieutenant Luigi Capuano testified to God’s care for him even when – as a boy – he did not know him. He explained that when he met Valentina, who introduced him to The Salvation Army and to faith, he realised that God had been there all the time. Lieutenant Francesca Longo in her testimony emphasised the importance of bringing the gospel to those who have yet to hear it.
The new lieutenants were given 'marching orders' to their first appointments by command leaders Lieut-Colonels Daniel and Eliane Naud.
The meetings were enriched by music group contributions from Rome and Naples Corps and a band augmented by Salvationists from France. The occasion was a great stimulus to the spiritual life of the Command.
On Sunday the visiting leaders were warmly greeted by Salvationists and friends at Rome Corps. During the meeting the worship team from the host corps brought encouragement through a variety of songs. A 13-strong group from Greece that had travelled to Rome for the special weekend sang to the glory of God.
Brother Christos in his testimony stated that, even though for many years he followed the Lord, there was a time in his life when he felt that God was calling him elsewhere and to do more. He said that in a dream the Lord made it clear he wanted him to serve him in The Salvation Army.
Commissioner Silvia Cox, in her Bible message, referred to the story of Esther and to verses from Jeremiah to show that despite the circumstances or sufferings, God wants to use his people according to his plan but, she added, if anyone refuses to be used by God, he will choose someone else.
The commissioner's final exhortation – 'Do you want to be part of God's plan?' – led many people to kneel at the mercy seat and dedicate their lives to the Lord. The weekend concluded with a response in song from all present: 'I'll stand for Christ, for Christ alone'.
Report by Captain Emmanuel Gau, Major Febe Pipe and Major Virginia Longo