Roman Catholicism ceased to be the state religion in 1984 and at least in theory all religions have equal freedom before the law, although the religious education in the schools is strictly limited to the teaching of Catholicism.
Protestants compose only 1% of the population, with an annual growth of 0.2%, whilst the more active Jehovah's Witnesses are currently at 0.73% of the population with an annual growth of a staggering 7.9%. Occultism is widespread, and there are reckoned to be 100,000 full time consulting magicians - three times the number of Catholic priests. Satanism is also strong, with the northern city of Turin acting as a center for this. Many are turning away from the Catholic church and are turning to New Age thinking and eastern religion.
A lack of maturity amongst Italian evangelical leaders and a general lack of coherence in the local fellowships mean that the evangelical movement is not currently taking full advantage of the new openness.
OAC ministry in Italy has moved ahead in fits and starts over the last 30 years. Whilst missionaries and other agencies like OM have brought OAC evangelistic techniques into Italy, the involvement of OAC really began in the 1970's when Jack Kreidler was sent by OAC USA to form a branch in Rome, and over 20 years he worked with various groups in the Rome and Naples area before taking on an International ministry in the early 1990's.
Subsequently, OAC GB took up the torch, led by Korky Davey of Bristol, who over a series of years led teams into the country and trained missionaries and nationals. His ministry led to the formation of some very active evangelists such as Dave Jones, who had a dynamic ministry in the 1980's evangelizing the center of Milan.
Mark and Cathy Detzler went to Italy in 1989 and they represented the work of OAC first in Milan and subsequently in Rome over 10 years. Mark then returned to Britain to be involved in a church-plant in Bristol, but still has a great concern for the work in Italy.
During the late '00s, Teams led by Rob Davis of OAC Europe Now were working in various areas in Northern Italy, based on Venice.
We are very encouraged to have Michela Piccolo on staff, to head up the work there.
Michela Piccolo after her training in UK returned to Italy in 1998 to continue and direct the work of OAC GB in Italy, she's been establishing evangelistic teams in churches all around Italy, she also produces evangelistic tools for today's generation, particularly using video. The ministry is growing and OAC in Italy often work in synergy with other missions giving training in creative evangelism to their members.
The church in Italy is small and divided, as in most of the Mediterranean countries.
One of the aims is to encourage teenagers to be involved in evangelism and be active in the church. This produced excellent results. Some of them, now grown up, are evangelism leaders in their churches, some of them dedicated a part of their life to God, going into full time ministry.
O.A.C. in Italy now is working on a project that aims to produce multimedia evangelistic material for today's generation. "Presenting Christ by all means everywhere."
To get a glimpse of Michela's video ministry, visit the (Italian language) web page. More information on request.