Our region (Europe/Middle East) is mourning the loss of Pastor Franco Santonocito of the Church of God in Italy. Franco was one of the great leaders of the Church of God worldwide and did much for the Europe/Middle East. He planted churches in Italy, did interpretation for Billy Graham, and served as a missionary in Egypt--the country he loved so deeply. He was a strong preacher and a great teacher. He had a deep love of Church of God theology and was an expert on issues such as eschatology from the Wesleyan-Holiness perspective. Most recently, Franco along with his wife Bea had served for about 10 years in Egypt prior to the arrival of the Oldhams. About a year and a half ago, the Santonocito's retired from the mission-field and ministry. We had a special celebration for them at the Church of God villas in which they were celebrated, given some gifts, and given a plaque for their many years of service to the Church of God signed by General Director Ron Duncan.
The last time we saw Franco was at last year's Easter Service where he interpreted for my Easter message. He did a fantastic job as his English was so good. He looked and sounded the same as always. For Jamie, they go way back and were always known as "Uncle Franco" and "Auntie Bea."
A few weeks ago, we were in Rome for the 3W Seminar and Franco did not make it. The last few months have been difficult and then this week he took a turn for the worse. The funeral will be tomorrow in Rome (Ostia). I am headed to London for the 3W Seminar this weekend, but our 3W Team will be sending Kelley Philips to represent all of us. Kelley, as Regional Coordinator for Europe/Middle East worked closely with Franco over the years and this will be a special time for him.
Say a prayer for the Santonocito family this week as they grieve their patriarch.