This week in Christian history: Protestant Reformer born, Italian sect gets legal rights; Billy Graham dies

Waldensians given religious freedom – Feb. 17, 1848

A symbol of the Waldensian movement. The motto 'Lux lucet in tenebris' translates to English as 'A light shines in the darkness.'
A symbol of the Waldensian movement. The motto "Lux lucet in tenebris" translates to English as "A light shines in the darkness." | Public Domain

This week marks the anniversary of when King Charles Albert of Sardinia gave a religious sect considered by many to be the first Protestants full legal and religious rights.

Known as the Waldensians, the group was created in the 12th century and founded by a merchant named Peter Waldo. They are considered by many to be Pre-Reformation Protestants.

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“Disgusted with voluptuous Rome, the Waldensians denounced virtually all Catholic feasts as man made. They rejected the Catholic sacraments except absolution, confession and Eucharist. Like the Quakers of later years they refused to take oaths,” explained

“Altars, church buildings, holy water, indulgences and all the paraphernalia and trappings of the established church they renounced. They denied purgatory.”

In response to their teachings, Waldo was excommunicated. The Waldensians suffered widespread persecution in France and Italy for centuries.

Largely concentrated in the Italian Alps by the 19th century, Albert’s “Edict of Emancipation” did not put an end to their mistreatment.

“… the Waldensian Church was barely tolerated and they had to struggle for over a century before receiving equal recognition with the Catholic Church,” noted Musée protestant.

“This did not prevent them from starting an energetic mission of evangelism throughout the Italian peninsula and many new communities were founded.”

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