RIVINGTONS, WATERLOO PLACE.
The attention your Lordship has devoted to the subject of the present religious movement in Italy, encourages us to lay before you some of the reasons which seem to render it desirable that the members of the Church of England should consider their special opportunities for aiding that movement.
Throughout England there appears to be general sympathy with the spirit of religious inquiry at work in Italy, and general willingness to aid it. Through the instrumentality of different religious Societies, many thousand copies of the Holy Scriptures, and a vast number of other religious books and tracts have been, and are being, widely spread through that country. Full freedom has been established by law for the diffusion of religious as well as general literature throughout Italy, with the exception of Venetia and Rome, with the small adjacent "Patrimony of St. Peter." The Bible and [3/4] Tract Societies of Great Britain, Geneva, New York, &c, have agents, colporteurs, and depôts in all the most important cities of the kingdom.
This instrumentality, coupled with the zealous and devoted efforts of a small number of able native Italian and Vaudois Pastors, has, under God's blessing, already produced striking results in awakening many thoughtful minds to a conviction of the corruptions of the Roman Catholic Church. Considerable congregations, some in connexion with the Vaudois, and others styling themselves "Italian Evangelical Christians," have been formed in the principal cities and other places. In Florence alone, not less than 1000 persons have thus been led to attach themselves to different Protestant congregations.
Hitherto but few of the upper and most educated classes have openly embraced any form of Protestantism, but the influence of the free circulation of the Bible is telling amongst them; and there is a growing feeling amongst all classes, shared in by many priests, and constantly expressed, that, when their present political crisis is past, it must inevitably be followed by some religious reformation.
There is the most striking unanimity of tone throughout the newspaper press (with the exception of the few exclusively clerical journals) in condemning the continuance of the Pope's temporal power. The journals teem with vigorous articles on this subject; not unfrequently also they sharply [4/5] contrast the doings of the Court of Rome with the precepts and practice of our Saviour and His Apostles, as set forth in the New Testament.
The feelings of the laity are to a great extent alienated from and irritated against the clergy. This arises, in a very great degree, from the extent to which the position and influence of the priesthood has been abused for political purposes, under the late despotic governments of Austria and the Duchies, of Naples and the Papal States.
One fact appears undoubted (and priests not unfrequently lament it), viz. that those governments habitually compelled the clergy to divulge to the police information touching suspected political offenders, which could only have been obtained through the Confessional. The natural result of this compulsory violation of secrecy has been, as priests themselves acknowledge, to deter numbers of people from the practice of confession, and to embitter them against religion itself. Another powerful cause of this alienation of laity from clergy, is the manner in which the clergy have been forced--in many instances against their will--to stand aloof from, and appear as the main obstacles to, the harmonious development of constitutional freedom and national unity amongst their fellow-citizens.
The recent national fete in celebration of the formation of the kingdom of Italy, was a striking instance of this. Almost all the bishops, acting on instructions from Rome, forbade the clergy to [5/6] accept the courteous invitation of Government to solemnize the fete by religious services. Thus at a moment when popular enthusiasm was at its height, the clergy were compelled to assume a position of apparent antagonism to the nation. In several cases priests preferred to disobey the episcopal mandates rather than keep aloof from the national rejoicing--though they thereby ran the risk of suspension from their functions. In a few instances the people insisted on the religious celebration in spite of the ecclesiastical authorities. One or two of the bishops themselves resolved to show their sympathy with their fellow-citizens by solemnizing the festival as they were invited. The Canons of Milan Cathedral did the same, and 130 Priests of Milan addressed a protest to the Pope against a line of proceeding by which the clergy were placed in the painful dilemma of apparent disloyalty on the one hand, and disobedience to their canonical superiors on the other. They felt, and pleaded, that the inevitable result must be the loss of their rightful influence amongst their fellow citizens.
This course on the part of the Ecclesiastical authorities led to speedy retaliation on the part of the Government and municipal authorities. On the great festival of "Corpus Domini," the Government and municipal authorities and employés studiously absented themselves from the accustomed processions, or attended only in their private capacities. The cry of separation between [6/7] Church and State was raised with more determination than ever.
Many of the more liberal and patriotic priests deeply deplore this state of things. They keenly feel the dangers threatening the Church and religion itself from this continued antagonism between Rome and the nation. A growing desire is becoming apparent, in northern Italy especially, for some return to the ancient provincial liberties of the Church; such as are well remembered to have existed before the successive encroachments of Rome succeeded, after long struggles, in extinguishing them. In such a cause, opening the way to Reforms, in accordance with the needs of the present time, appears to be their best hope of satisfactorily adjusting their position as faithful clergy to that of citizens of Italy united under constitutional freedom.
A similar feeling breathes through the public journals. In the midst of the sharpest discussions and keenest invectives against the corruptions and wrong-doings of Rome--it is not religion--it is not the Church itself that is attacked. The distinction is always most clearly kept in sight between reverence for religion and respect for the ministers and services of the Church, and the desire to see its abuses reformed, and its influence solely devoted to the promotion of the moral and spiritual well-being of the nation.
The necessity of Church reformation, in this spirit, has of late been boldly avowed by the [7/8] highest authority in the Italian Parliament. In this state of things many persons, who have watched the recent progress of religious inquiry in the country, feel that it is most desirable that full and accurate information upon the principles of the English Reformation should be as widely as possible diffused through Italy, not for the purpose of proselytizing individuals, or forming isolated congregations, but simply with the view of informing the public mind, and thereby aiding the Italians in their own efforts at National Religious Reformation.
This feeling is by no means confined to members of the English Church. Our American Episcopalian brethren largely share it, and they were preparing vigorously to act upon it when their unhappy domestic troubles broke out. Should a speedy cessation of their sad discord take place, we may count upon their cordial co-operation.
There is also great readiness on the part of educated Italians to receive information from us. There have been few instances in history of such an amount of cordial national sympathy, as at present exists between the Italians and English. For years the Italians have been turning their eyes to England, and studying her political system as a guide in their struggles after constitutional freedom. Tokens are not wanting that many thoughtful minds would also gladly become better acquainted with the manner in which she was enabled, under God's blessing, to throw off the [8/9] yoke of Rome's religious usurpation, and yet retain Scriptural truth and primitive order in her Reformed Episcopal Church.
Repeated instances have occurred in which educated Italians, who have occasionally attended the services of the English Church, in order to inform themselves of her real teaching and system, have expressed their great satisfaction and comfort in them; and in many cases in which the Prayer Book has been judiciously brought to the notice of individuals, priests and laymen, it has made the most favourable impression on their minds, given an entirely new view of the Reformed Episcopal Church, and created a wish that the knowledge of it might be extended amongst their countrymen. In one or two instances small congregations have manifested a desire to adopt our Liturgy, as a temporary measure, until they may see their way to some national reform,--and on one occasion three priests in Turin presented a petition to the Italian Parliament requesting sanction for this purpose.
The opinion is not unfrequently expressed, even by those who are taking the most active part in the direct proselytizing efforts of other Protestant bodies, that if the present religious movement is to become national, and if the great body of the clergy and educated classes are to take a share in it, it must be under the condition of retaining in some reformed shape their ancient Episcopal Church. "We want," it is often said, "something [9/10] akin to what we have been always used to,--a Liturgy, a regular ministry, decent ceremonial--only purified."
Now we venture to ask your Lordship, and our fellow-Churchmen in general, does not all this appear to give us a call to aid in any way that we fairly can?
As members of an ancient and catholic, yet purified and reformed branch of the Church, which, through God's grace, has for ages happily combined the fullest and freest setting forth of the Bible as the rule of faith and life, and the due administration of the Sacraments, with the maintenance of the ancient Catholic Creeds, Scriptural Articles, a pure and devotional Liturgy, and the three orders of the Christian ministry, ought we not to try and show to others (situated in many respects as our forefathers were) the way we have found it good to follow, as an example which may encourage them if, in God's providence, they may be led to some similar internal reformation, in accordance with their own national temperament and circumstances? Few members of the English Church, we believe, will hesitate to answer "Yes" to such a question.
How then may we best aim at this end?
1. By spreading, with the Bible, our Book of Common Prayer, and such other publications as may set forth and illustrate the principles and character of the Reformed Episcopal Church. This will require the employment of Italian Book-hawkers.
 2. By personal intercourse with individuals who may desire explanations and fuller information. For this purpose one or more well-qualified agents will be needed.
3. By employment of the Press in Italy, if found desirable as a channel for the spread of information, and for friendly discussion upon the great practical points of difference between Rome and the Reformed Episcopal Church.
What facilities have we for this work?
1. The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge is willing to act with the utmost liberality in furnishing supplies of Italian Bibles, Prayer Books, and other suitable publications, for distribution and sale at low prices. Your Lordship witnessed the readiness with which at their last monthly meeting, on July 2nd, the Board voted 500l. to be expended in grants for this purpose, an earnest of further similar grants when needed. The Society does not, however, employ any Book-hawking Agency. We must therefore look to some other source to supply that.
2. The Anglo-Continental Association, for making known on the Continent the principles of the English Church, has for several years past prepared and published a few works for Italy. Depôts of these publications are established in the principal cities. Last winter the Association made a further important move, by sending out the Rev. Dr. Camilleri (who has long been employed as their Italian Editor, and also by the Society for Promoting [11/12] Christian Knowledge, for revision of the Italian version of the Prayer Book) on a mission to ascertain how far a desire for Church Reform existed, and to aid and encourage it by such personal intercourse with individuals, priests and laymen, as we have above alluded to. The results of this mission were so far satisfactory, as unmistakeably to point the way for Dr. Camilleri's return if possible. [The Report of Dr. Camilleri's late Mission to Italy may be procured on application, either to the Rev. F. Meyrick, Cambridge; or to T. Parry Woodcock, Esq., "Oxford and Cambridge, &c, Mission to Central Africa," Mitre Court Chambers, Temple.]
The Anglo-Continental Association is now prepared, if funds are forthcoming, to resume Dr. Camilleri's mission, and to undertake the employment of Book-hawkers, who shall spread the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge publications, together with those of the Anglo-Continental Association. Dr. Camilleri would select hawkers, and superintend their work, and carry on his former special mission.
An English Clergyman, who has for some years shared in the Anglo-Continental Association's work, hopes to spend next winter in Italy, and will gladly co-operate with Dr. Camilleri. Thus the required machinery is ready, if only sufficient funds can be raised.
Some, however, will be disposed to inquire, what guarantee have we that the publications of the Anglo-Continental Association will fully and [12/13] faithfully represent the principles of the Church of England? Your Lordship is aware that, in order to answer this reasonable inquiry, the Association have recently requested the following gentlemen to act as a Book Committee, to revise and select their publications for Italy, viz.:--Rev. Dr. Jacobson, Regius Professor of Divinity, Oxford; Rev. E. Harold Browne, Norrisian Professor, Cambridge; Rev. Lord Charles A. Hervey, Rector of Chesterford; Rev. Dr. Bay lee, Principal of St. Aidan's College, Birkenhead; and Rev. F. Meyrick, Secretary of the Anglo-Continental Association; and further, your Lordship is aware that the Association have requested the Archbishop of York, together with your Lordship, and the Bishops of Bangor, Oxford, and Rochester, to act as Episcopal Referees, whose decision shall be final, in case of doubt arising respecting any publication of the Anglo-Continental Association. On this basis the Association is prepared to act, trusting that it will meet with sympathy and support from all who desire to see a full and fair representation of Church of England principles set before the Italians; and thus it is hoped that a way may be prepared for any more direct action on the part of the English Church, that may hereafter appear desirable, for the promotion of Christian truth and unity in a country, to which she herself was indebted in the sixth century for many spiritual benefits.
It only remains that we express our earnest hope that the resolution to aid the Anglo-Continental [13/14] Association in their work for Italy, which was adopted at the recent meeting of Clergy and Laity, over which your Lordship kindly presided, will be heartily responded to, as considerable funds will be needed for the purpose. Our own recent residence during several months in Italy, has deeply convinced us of the really great importance of the subject; and we therefore venture respectfully to commend the work to the sympathy, prayers, and support of your Lordship, and all members of the Church of England interested in that country.
We have the honour to remain,
obliged and faithful servants,
L. M. HOGG,
T. PARRY WOODCOCK.
1. At a meeting of Clergy and Laity, held (by permission) at the office of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, 79, Pall Mall, on July 23rd ult., the Lord Bishop of London in the chair, the following resolution was adopted:--
"That this Meeting is willing to assist the Committee of the Anglo-Continental Society in raising funds to circulate amongst the Italians Bibles, Prayer Books, and other works, to foe approved by the Book Committee of the Society, subject to the Episcopal Referees."
 2. On February 28, 1861, on the motion of the Rev. Canon Wordsworth, D.D., the following Petition, signed by many leading members of the Clergy of the Provincial Synod of Canterbury, was ordered to be sent up to the Archbishop and Bishops of the Province:--
"REFORMATION IN ITALY.
"We, the undersigned members of the Lower House of Convocation of the Province of Canterbury, respectfully invite the attention of the Upper House to the opportunity now afforded by Divine Providence for the advancement of true religion in Italy.
"We regard with thankfulness the facilities offered at the present time for the diffusion of the Holy Scriptures in that country, and we rejoice to learn that many Italians have shown a desire to procure copies of the English Book of Common Prayer in their own tongue, and have expressed their approval of it.
"We are of opinion that the Church of England ought not to remain passive and silent at so important a juncture, and we earnestly pray that she may be enabled by the Divine blessing to avail herself of those means which are now vouchsafed to her of promoting the cause of Christian truth and unity in a country to which she herself was indebted in the sixth century for many spiritual benefits.
"We, therefore, humbly submit to the consideration of your Grace and your Lordships whether it might not be expedient that a committee of this Convocation should be appointed with instructions to prepare the draught of a letter from the Bishops and Clergy of this Province representing to the Clergy and Laity of Italy the blessings, spiritual and temporal, which, under God's providence, this Church and realm have continued to derive for three centuries from the English Reformation, preserving as it did the Holy Scriptures, the Sacraments, and the Creeds of the Christian Church, and the three Orders of the [15/16] Christian ministry, while it purified them from novelties, errors, and corruptions.
"We would also suggest that such a communication from this Synod might convey to the Clergy and People of Italy the assurance of our hearty sympathy and co-operation in all the efforts that they may make to follow the example of England reforming herself, and to maintain those Scriptural and catholic truths and ordinances which they have inherited from primitive antiquity, and to clear them from those abuses by which in the course of ages they have been marred and blemished.
"We therefore humbly pray your Grace and Lordships to give the requisite directions for the appointment of a committee, for the purpose of framing the draught of such a Letter to be submitted to this Convocation for consideration at some early opportunity."
3. Contributions to the "Italian Mission Fund" of the Anglo-Continental Association may be paid into Messrs. Hoare's Bank, Fleet Street, London, T. Parry Woodcock, Esq., Hon. Treasurer;
and communications may be addressed to the Hon. Secretaries, Rev. F. Meyrick, Educational Department, Privy Council Office, Downing Street; or to T. Parry Woodcock, Esq., or Rev. L. M. Hogg, Oxford and Cambridge Mission Rooms, Mitre Court Chambers, Fleet Street, E.C.