Gino Frediani (Immanuel I, 1974-1984) was born in 1913 and served as a parish priest in Gavinana in Italian Pistoia from the 1940s onwards. Beginning in 1973, he claimed to receive apparitions from Old Testament prophets. On 5 September 1973, he asserted that the prophet Habakkuk had placed a hand on his head saying that the Italian parish priest was chosen to fulfil a great universal mission: “to build a Holy Church to the Sacred Heart of Jesus”.
This was the beginning of what the seer referred to as the “Great Revelations on the last times of sin and sorrow”. Later, other prophets would appear to Frediani, including Naum, Nehemiah and Baruch. They revealed secrets that were hidden in the prophetic books of the Old Testament and the Book of Revelation.
In 1974, Frediani proclaimed himself Pope Immanuel I and officially founded the Chiesa Novella Universale del Sacro Cuore di Gesú, the New Universal Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. At first, he stayed in his parish, but when removed by the bishop, the community resided at a former inn in Gavinana. Apart from laypeople, at least three other Italian parish priests joined the New Church and were consecrated bishops. The doctrines of the church were transmitted by the “heavenly voices”, heard by Frediani.
Later messages were not only received from Old Testament prophets, but from angels, the Virgin Mary, John the Evangelist and the Trinity. Frediani thought that Jesus’s words that “all would be revealed in the last times” applied to him and the current era. He asserted that the whole truth had not been made available to humanity until now, because the Catholic Church “had closed the mouth of God”, by stating that divine revelation had come to an end with the Apocalypse of St. John. The New Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus therefore published “A scriptural appendix to the prophets of the Old and New Testament”— which included new revelations with commentaries by the pope.
In the end times, God would guide the New Church by means of his “chosen instruments”. The most prominent of them was Pope Immanuel, but there were others, who were chosen by God to receive hidden knowledge, too. The messages preached in the New Church were mainly apocalyptical. Pope Immanuel announced forthcoming divine punishments and indicated precise dates for future events.
As it had never listened to the voice of Christ, in the end time God would severely castigate the Roman Catholic Church and its leaders. According to Immanuel I, the Holy See had become “the shameful see of Satan: the enemy of God”. For this reason, God would destroy the Vatican, and had already decided to move the Holy See to Gavinana. From there God would establish a universal theocracy with the help of his new Vicar.
According to Pope Immanuel’s predictions, the followers of the New Church would have to go through great tribulations. There would be several phases of the end times. The first was a ten-year era of natural disasters that would kill most people in the world. During the second period that also would last for a decade, the people of Israel would be decimated to a small remnant. During the third phase, a Holy kingdom would be gradually built, and finally God the Father will establish the “Eternal Kingdom of his Son” in its fullness and for all eternity.
At the death of Immanuel I in 1984, Cardinal Sergio Melani was divinely elected the “greatest of the Lord” or the “notary of notaries of the universe”. He was not the pope, as he only administered the New Church temporarily until Pope Immanuel would return from Heaven. In the meantime, Melani should interpret and censure the messages received by the “heavenly instruments” and transmit the commands of Heaven to the church members.
Some years after the death of Pope Immanuel, “heavenly voices” revealed that there would soon appear a very important “instrument”: a woman who represented all humankind. Her body, which in some way was linked to the Trinity, would be like a tabernacle that, once purified, would house Virgin Mary’s body. Thus, just as Christ was incarnated “this woman would accomplish a salvific mission on earth”. In the 1980s, one of the followers of the New Church was regarded as that woman, whose body the Virgin would inhabit or already did inhabit. The sources are not clear on this distinction.
The New Church’s ultimate goal was to collectively be transformed into the “perfect son of God”, through complete obedience to the Law of God. The faithful would gradually reach greater perfection; among humans only the Virgin would be a more perfect person. According to the “heavenly voices”, a “great crucifixion” would then take place. Then all true believers would be sacrificed together with Christ, the head of the mystical body. At that time, all sacraments but the eucharist would become obsolete, and the words of consecration words will be: “This is our body, this is our blood”. By then, earth itself will be transformed into a “Great Altar, where the sacrifice of Christ is completed”.
In 1989, the Roman Catholic bishop of Pistoia and Fiesole, Simone Scatizza issued an interdict, stating that the New Universal Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus had nothing to do with the Catholic Church. He declared that it was separated from ecclesial communion, as it refused to accept the authority of the pope and the local bishops. The group’s main transgressions were that it had changed sacred texts according to their own whims, created a liturgy of their own, and developed an eschatological belief system, based on false revelations. For these reasons, the bishop proclaimed that Roman Catholics were not permitted to take part in the rituals and meetings of the New Church, as it might constitute a danger to their Catholic faith and ultimately, their salvation. The only surprising thing with this message is that the ecclesiastical hierarchy waited for so long.
Today, the New Church has a much reduced membership. According to news reports, by 2000, about fifteen people, most of them very old, lived permanently in the Gavinana community, and a couple of dozen of others outside to attend the Sunday services.
“Antipapi e pretendenti a un futuro ruolo di Papa”, in Massimo Introvigne & Pierluigi Zoccatelli (eds), Le religioni in Italia. (www.cesnur.com)
Gino Frediani & Sergio Melani, La fine del mondo del peccato e del dolore. L’Anticristo, Gavinana: Casa Editrice Aggeo, 1983
Gino Frediani, Le ultime volontà di Dio per la Terra nascoste nei Profeti dell’Antico e del Nuovo Testamento, Gavinana: Casa Editrice Aggeo, 1984.
Gino Frediani & Sergio Melani, Appendice scritturale ai profeti dell’Antico e del Nuovo Testamento. È suonata la settima tromba dell’Apocalisse per il Vaticano e per il mondo, Gavinana: Casa Editrice Aggeo, 1985.