ROME — More than a decade after it was announced and two millennia after Peter and Paul preached here, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opened the doors Monday to its stunning new Rome Italy Temple.
Elder David A. Bednar and Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles held a news conference Monday morning and led tours for the temple’s first visitors, which included some of the city’s political leaders and European journalists.
“This is a worldwide religion,” Elder Bednar said. “We have more than 16 million members and the church is recognized and established in over 170 nations, so it’s only a matter of time before we have temples in most major cities in the world, but it is of particular significance to have a temple in Rome, the Eternal City.”
Tad Walch, left, interviews Stake President Andrea Cordani of the Verona Italy Stake while standing near statues of Christ and the Apostles in the Rome Temple Visitor's Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019.
Monday’s visitors included President Marcello De Vito of the Rome City Council and President Giovanni Caudo, president of the Rome Municipality.
“Living together is a characteristic of our city, and that is confirmed by this presence of this building in the city,” De Vito said. “We are very glad to welcome this cultural center in Rome.
“As a citizen of this municipal entity I’m really proud I’m able to participate in this inauguration. I bring the mayor’s greetings for this great building that makes our city more beautiful. It’s a happy day for all those who believe that different people and religions can live together, who believe being able to communicate is the best way to keep peace among different religions, races and peoples.”
Also present was Elder Massimo De Feo, a General Authority Seventy.
“Rome is the center of worldwide Christianity, and it has been since the apostles Peter and Paul came to preach the gospel right here in Rome,” Elder De Feo said. “As the center for Christianity for millennia, Rome couldn’t be without a temple dedicated to Jesus Christ. Rome is also the Eternal City. We needed to have a temple in the Eternal City because it is a symbol of eternity. The temple is the place we learn that life is eternal, that before coming to earth we lived with our Heavenly Father and that if we live the teachings of Jesus Christ completely and faithfully we will live forever with God and our family. It’s in the temple where we learn families can be forever.”
The temple was announced in 2008 and construction began in 2010. Construction problems that caused delays are now in the past.
“A couple of times I was discouraged, but we were sure the Lord was preparing us for something big. And so it is,” said Silvia Dominici, a church member and school teacher who toured the temple with her husband Sunday night as they and others prepared to lead tours for special visitors on Monday.
“It’s emotional for me,” added Dominici, a member who lives five hours away by car in Taranto. “They told me it was nice, but this is another thing altogether.”
The Rome Italy Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is pictured after sunset on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019.
She will return with her children and other family on Feb. 2 during the public open house, which begins Jan. 28 and will run through Feb. 16, excluding Sunday. The temple will be dedicated in multiple sessions from March 10-12.
The three-story, 40,000-square-foot temple sits on a 15-acre site that includes three other buildings. It sits atop a piazza with a terrace of stone steps and fountains that lead down to the Rome Temple Visitors’ Center where a striking glass front displays a Christus statue and statues of Christ’s 12 original apostles.
On one side of the plaza is a meetinghouse. On the other side is a family history center and housing for people who come to the temple from far-flung locations.
The temple’s design echoes aspects of the ancient city. A motif designed by Michelangelo from the Piazza Venezia on Campidoglio Hill is woven into carpets and displayed in other places throughout the building.
The temple’s exterior is granite with decorative glazing. The interior includes Italian granite, Spanish marble, African wood and American stained-glass art.
Dominici stood in silence at the feet of the Christus statue for a more than a minute on Sunday evening.
“I don’t know if Jesus Christ looks like this, but this is how I imagine him, with his arms open toward me,” she said as a tear swept down her left cheek. “It makes me feel his immense love. It’s hard to explain what you feel when you are facing the idea of facing the Lord.”
Statues of Christ and the Apostles are displayed in the Rome Temple Visitor's Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Rome, Italy on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019.
She said the painting above the statues was a typical Italian landscape, with rolling hills, grass and sheep.
“It makes me think (heaven) is Italian,” she said with a smile. “Like Italian will be taught there. The echoes of Italy in the temple design, like the olive leaves, make it feel like my temple, close to my heart. I’m sure this will be a major blessing for the people of this country.”
In a statement last year, the church’s leader, President Russell M. Nelson, said, “The sacred ordinances performed in this holy temple will unite families for eternity. God loves all His children equally and has provided a way for them to be linked in love, generation to generation. We are thrilled to be able to dedicate a temple in this city replete with historical importance throughout the ages.”
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