Mormons, steps from the Vatican: challenge to the Catholic Church?

There are more than 900 churches in Rome, but until now there was no Mormon temple. The Church of Jesus Christ of the Last Days has recently inaugurated its new complex on the outskirts of the Italian capital, the largest in all of Europe: a six-hectare piece of land where a large temple stands where they officiate their most special ceremonies, a church for ordinary celebrations, a visitor center where they lecture about their history and beliefs and even a hotel so that members of this religion can stay while they are in Rome.

Everything happens a few kilometers from the Vatican, even though the relations of this Church with the Holy See have never been easy. In March, Pope Francis became the first pontiff to receive the president of the Mormons, Russell M. Nelson, a “friendly” meeting, in which they talked about the things they have in common, such as “family, freedom religious or love for Christ, “says Alessandro Dini Ciacci, the highest authority of the Mormons in Italy.

In addition to teaching a different doctrine about Jesus Christ, they have rites that the Catholic Church disapproves of, such as baptism by immersion, baptism for the deceased or a concept of marriage that lasts not only until death separates them, but for all eternity.

Placing this monumental infrastructure here seems a direct challenge to the Roman curia, but Dini Ciacci flatly denies it. “When the Church decides to build a temple, it is usually built in the capital because it is the one that is best communicated with the rest of the country. Rome is also the center of Christianity. Pedro and Pablo came here to carry their message, “he explains in an interview in one of the halls of the visitor center.

So far, the 25,000 Mormons living in Italy had to drive several hours to the Bern temple in Switzerland. The one in Rome is now the twelfth in Europe, a continent with half a million people who profess a faith that prohibits them from drinking alcohol, using drugs or smoking, but also condemns homosexuality or premarital relationships. As a gesture of apparent modernization, Mormons have just accepted that the children of gay couples can be baptized. There are 162 Mormon temples in the world, and another 50 are in the construction phase.

All these rules will also apply in the temple of Rome, a concrete construction that is out of tune with the architecture of the city. Halfway between Soviet rationalism and futurism, the building has 3,800 square meters spread over three floors, and it has taken eight years to complete.

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