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 Chapter Fifteen

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In the previously cited, ample report by Guido Ceronetti on Marcello and his Community, published in 1998 in La Stampa, was written, among other things: ‘Fuming Orient’ was the name first given to the numerous Community gathered around Marcello, and it was a good one, it induced fear, but they rejected it in favour of the more tranquil ‘Families of Bethlehem’ and initials which indicated, in English, a generic Christian Action… The Bishop of Assisi, after comings and goings, ended up by excluding them from the communion of the Church:  The breach between prophesying and the priesthood is always inescapable. However, leafing through the fuming prophesies of Marcello (now about sixty, white bearded and a warm human being), we read that on the first of May in eighty-one he had a vision of the Pope, seriously ill, on his feet “behind a little white hospital table”. Thirteen days later there was Agca’s attempted assassination and it is true that, despite his injuries, the Pope remained on his feet”.

The article merits a couple of notes: first of all, concerning the prediction of the assassination attempt in St. Peter’s Square. On the eve of the attempt we were at dinner in Marcello’s house at Viole di Assisi. He told us to pray for the Pope because he had ‘seen’ him gravely ill. God alone knows why the Holy Spirit wanted to reveal to him, in advance, this tragic event, but what is certainly not without significance is the atmosphere of profound reverence towards that great Pope that is revealed by Marcello’s final comment in his account of that vision: “I too was standing in front of him, in silence, like a pupil before his master”.

Then there is also something to add concerning the name which the Community had first chosen: ‘Fuming Orient’.  “It was a good one, it induced fear” wrote Ceronetti.  That name was, and still is, very dear to us because it was given to us by a humble farmer, called Isidoro, from the Plain of Assisi, who had welcomed with simplicity Marcellos charisma and often came to the house to pray.

I went to visit him once when he was ill; he told me that he had dreamt that he met Marcello and had asked him: “But you, where do you come from?” and a voice answered him in his dream: “He comes from the ‘Fuming Orient”. Isidore understood ‘Orient but not ‘Fuming’. Neither did we understand it at first, when we talked about it in the Community. But later we found such an abundance of biblical references to ‘theophanies’ – manifestations of God – in fire and smoke that we were astonished and, with the playful amazement of children, decided to call ourselves precisely that: ‘Fuming Orient’.

That sense of amazement grew even more when we read that Dante, in his Divine Comedy, wrote that ‘Assisi’ should really be called ‘Orient’ (Paradise XI, 52-54). However, we have had to abandon that name some time ago because, in the Bishop’s opinion, it smelled…of ‘Masonry.’



Chapter Twenty-six


The earth never stopped shaking, at Assisi and in a wide swathe of the Apennines in the Umbria-Marche region, during that long seismic event beginning on the 26th September, 1997.  The “Assisi earthquake” which took four lives, two of whom were Friars, inside the Basilica of St. Francis itself.

“Your land will tremble, it will split open…”:  how could we fail to think of the prophecy concerning Assisi which Marcello received two years before when, convalescing from a serious illness, on retreat in the Trasimeno Hills, the Lord had given him this and three other ‘prophecies’?  “Your land will tremble, it will split open”:  precisely as Marcello had foretold, a fissure opened from top to bottom of the lower ‘square’ of the Basilica of St. Francis.  Two years later:  a singular analogy in chronological difference with which one of the most ancient Prophets of the Old Testament – Amos – foretold, two years in advance, a great earthquake which remained imprinted upon the historical memory of Israel (Amos 1, 1).

What could we do, during those days of mourning and bewilderment, if not pass nights of vigil under the porticoes of that square, while the activities of the Fire Brigade, the Police, the Civil Defence and volunteers from all parts were in full swing?  We were there too, with a prayer, a word of support:  as we also did in the reception camps for the victims of the earthquake, furnished at first with tents and later with portacabins.  Some of our younger members contributed actively in the supply base at Foligno.  We tried to enter discretely into the pain and dismay of those who had even seen the house they had spent a lifetime building up, with many a sacrifice, collapse in a moment.  We offered, as far as we were able, practical help, and also a word of faith.  Faith in a God who not only created the earth but who governs its destiny, even by means of unfathomable events.  A God who, nevertheless, remains ‘Father’ for those who entrust themselves to Him…


A short biographic account concerning the author:

Massimo Coppo, son of the writer and teacher of Arts and Philosophy Alberto Coppo, was born at Foligno (Perugia) the 10th of May, 1948. He received a diploma in classical studies (liceo classico), and won a scholarship of the American Field Service, so attending the Columbus High School in the State of Indiana. Later he took a degree in acricultural sciences, with first class honours, then becoming a teacher. Actually he devotes himself as voluntary to the activities of the non profit association IACA.



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