NEWS » Padre Carmelo transferred to Rome

Padre Carmelo transferred to Rome

After 43 years as priest of St. Peter’s Church Padre Carmelo Di Giovanni has been transferred to Rome. The news was given a few days ago by Carmelo himself at the 11am mass. Since then many people came to say goodbye to Padre Carmelo even from far outside London. The London Italian community is bewildered and has shown deep affection and solidarity to Padre Carmelo, the parish of an “explosive church”, full of activities and always open to everyone. Gradually Padre Carmelo became a reference point for the Italian community and even nowadays Padre Carmelo has been always ready to help the new wave of Italian immigration, the so called “cervelli in fuga”, young professionals coming to London to find a better job.

Many were the important achievements of Padre Carmelo, we can just name a few of them before retracing his fascinating life story.

Padre Carmelo tried to give an answer to everyone who knocked at the door: youngsters, elderly, prisoners, drug addicts, sick people. He created a family spirit in the community, a place where you could be yourself and be straightforward. Through the associations a great part of Italy was represented at the Italian church, helping also with fundraising events. The Italian language was more alive than ever with two pre-marriage courses this year, one in Italian and one in English. The church was always full because the liturgy was lively and not just a repetition of rules.

Padre Carmelo was born in Sangineto, in the province of Cosenza, on the 3rd of May 1944. At the age of 12 he entered Father Pallottini’s seminary to study and then attended junior intermediate school and the “Ginnasio” in Rocca Priora. He graduated in theology at the “Lateran university” and then he began to study Sociology at the University “La Sapienza” in Rome. He was ordained on the 20th December 1970 in the Frascati cathedral and then assigned to the Parish Regina Pacis in Ostia lido. There the “troubles” started. Padre Carmelo took part in the Italian political life of those years. He participated in the Idroscalo strikes and organised special masses using bread for the communion, and consulting the red book of Mao Zedong. “It was all done to contrast hierarchy”, Padre Carmelo said remembering with amusement that period of his life.

On  September 1971 he was transferred to London. There he tried to continue his social and political activity but he faced a totally different reality. Padre Carmelo felt isolated, stunned, disappointed and angry.

At the end of the year 1972 he met an Italian priest who told him about the Neocatechumenal movement. Padre Carmelo thought that it might have helped to establish a deeper contact with people, so he invited the members of the Neocatechumenal movement for some catechetical meetings for adults. At the beginning Carmelo couldn’t identify himself with them, he thought they had very different ideas from him: they preached the Jesus servant, who turns the other cheek, while he was preaching the revolutionary Christ, the man of change. At this point he left them and went to Russia for a while. At the end of the catechesis, Carmelo went with the Neocatechumenal movement members to a retreat named “della convivenza”. That was a turning point in his life, an unpredictable spiritual experience. He went through a spiritual crisis, he meditated, and realised that what he had preached before was wrong.

In those same years Carmelo started working with prisoners and continued up to the present time. “It was the most beautiful experience in my life […] I entered in a world of suffering and failures, I saw the real man, the man wounded by sin […] my mission was to bring a word of hope and serenity, there I saw that man can redeem himself and God changes peoples’ lives”. Carmelo saw thousands of people embracing God and changing their lives even in prison. He always considered the prison as a part of the parish.  

In the 80’ there was a massive immigration of young Italians addicted to drugs and affected with Aids, which saw Padre Carmelo on the front line helping out desperate youngsters and their families.

In the last 10 years there was a new Italian immigration wave of highly educated professionals who came to London to find a job. Padre Carmelo created with them something really beautiful. They attended the church especially the Sunday at 7 mass, and gave a new image to the church on the spiritual and social side. They also contributed to the project “Ben venuti a bordo” - a branch of the St Peter’s project also connected with the Embassy project - aimed to provide information and help to the newcomers.  

Giulia Lombardo

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