Franco was born on the 7th of July, 1937, in Turin, Italy. From an early age, Franco had a deep hunger for God. For a time he followed a hard life in a monastery near Rome. After that he trained as a priest. His motive was always the same. He wanted to find God for himself. However, even though he spent time trying to overcome sin in himself and in speaking about God to others, he could not attain to that personal peace with God for which he longed.
That peace came suddenly and unexpectedly, when Franco was in charge of the Mass one day in a large church in Imperia. A student was reading a passage from Hebrews 10, and the words of verse ten came as a message from heaven to Franco: “And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” For the first time he realised that what he had been seeking during all these years had been provided through the cross of Christ nearly two thousand years before. From that moment onwards, to the end of his life, Franco had a burning desire to share the gospel of Christ with others.
It was not easy to work with him. He was such an individualist that he found it difficult to be part of a team. But Blythswood had the privilege of channeling at least some support to this unique man from 1980 to the day of his death.
He was extremely gifted. He was never content to find one spiritual formula and to apply it rigidly to the various situations which he met. He was constantly interacting with the gospel on a personal level, and was always seeing new ways in which the gospel could be applied to the problems with which he was confronted.
I remember being with him once at the home of a minister in Scotland who thought of himself as a great champion of the principles of the Reformation. Franco responded to this man’s comments to the following effect: “You are looking back to the Reformation. But you are not like the Reformers. They were looking forward. They were thinking hundreds of years ahead. They were not buried in the past. If we really want to be like them, we will not be controlled by the past but will look to the future, as they did.” For once, that minister had nothing to say. That was one outstanding characteristic of Franco. He was a courageous little man. He never said things to please people, to be popular with his hearers.
That was one thing which he helped me to see, during the thirty years that I knew him. He had been disappointed by a church which sought to draw attention to itself. Once he had himself come to know Jesus as his Saviour and Lord, he had a very deep grasp of the church’s duty to point people away from itself to Jesus.
I recall some of those to whom Franco ministered. The depth and breadth of their understanding of the gospel testified to the high quality of his ministry. I remember a gracious and mature Christian lady who said to me, “Per me, Franco e stato un altro Paulo” (For me, Franco has been another Paul). This might seem like an exaggeration, but she was just expressing from her heart her sense of indebtedness to someone whom God had used to help her really to grasp the gospel of God’s grace. In keeping with this, at the funeral service when Franco’s body was laid to rest in a Waldensian cemetery, a moving tribute was read from one of the churches which he was the means of founding.
Franco’s ministry was realistic, facing up to the difficulties which ordinary people face. It was also charged with a hope born of the God of hope. Both these aspects of his ministry were reflected in the meditation which he wrote on Romans 8:25 “But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience.” This meditation accompanied the last Prayer Letter sent out on Franco’s behalf before his death:
We will give our hope to the hopeless, our joy to whoever is sad. To wait with perseverance, with patience, means entering into conflict, into the sadness and defeats of the human race. But the Lord’s promise accompanies us in our journey of faith and allows us to see, beyond the horizon of sadness, the light of his coming reign. And we say, “Even so come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).
For Franco, after those years of searching, after those years of taking up the cross and following Christ in a ministry which was difficult but whose fruits will last, that prayer was answered just before midnight on the 20th of December, 2006.
Our love and prayers surround his precious wife Aurora, along with his daughter and his son, Tabitha and Alberto.
The basics of Franco’s story are told in John Tallach’s book They Shall be Mine, published by the Trust in 1981.
A fuller version is found in the fascinating book containing fifty testimonies of priests who became ministers of the gospel, Far from Rome, Near to God(Banner of Truth, 1997).
Testimonies of Fifty Converted Catholic Priests
Franco was born on the 7th of July, 1937, in Turin, Italy. From an early age, Franco had a deep hunger for God. For a time he followed a hard life in a monastery near Rome. After that he trained as a priest. His motive was always the same. He wanted to find God for […]
Franco also spoke once at a Banner of Truth Conference in Leicester.
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