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ROME — Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints traveled to Rome to host national and international media as some of the first visitors to the open house of the new Rome Italy Temple.
Located in the northeast section of the city and just off the beltway, the temple has become a stunning site on the skyline. It is more than 40,000 square feet and nearly 60 feet high with two spires, one of them topped with an Angel Moroni.
The temple was the centerpiece of a religious and cultural center built on a nearly 15-acre site. The facility includes a visitors center with a Christus statue and statues of the 12 original apostles — plus a family history center, temple patron housing, and a church meetinghouse.
Since the late church President Thomas S. Monson announced plans for the temple in October 2008, and following the groundbreaking and throughout the construction process, Latter-day Saints throughout the world have expressed excitement. Elder David A. Bednar, of the church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said with so many former missionaries from the 1960s on, it is understandable.
“To think about this place, in this season of the dispensation of the fullness of times, and the temple in Rome — all the excitement is well-deserved,” he said.
All Christians, including Latter-day Saints, recognize Rome as a center of Christianity and a historic setting where the early apostles Peter and Paul preached the Gospel.
Two Latter-day Saint apostles did the same at the opening of the new temple. Elder Ronald A. Rasband, also of the church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, expressed gratitude.
“I’m just very humbled to be here, and to think that we’re walking in the footsteps of those original apostles, and thinking of the blessings that we enjoy in our day and how different it was for the early Christians here in Rome,” he said.
Dozens of Italian journalists attended a news conference and toured the temple along with international media.
“I think it’s a headline that the Mormon Church is building a temple in Rome, which has been traditionally associated with the Catholic Church,” said Delia Gallagher, a correspondent for CNN.
“It’s a matter of some note in a city where the Catholic Church has reigned supreme for many centuries,” said David Willey from the BBC. “We shall wait and see how relations develop.”
The Italian Latter-day Saints are overjoyed about their new temple. Those who live in southern Italy previously traveled as much as a thousand miles to attend the temple in Bern, Switzerland, spending all of their vacation time there.
Elder Massimo De Feo, of the church's Quorum of the Seventy, said those members have been blessed because of their faith.
“From Sicily, that could be more than one entire day to just get there; and they have been probably the most faithful members to attend the temple, even from so far,” he said.
In the Eternal City, the temple with its oval architecture and interior designs makes that statement to all visitors.
“The Lord’s course is one eternal realm, and you take the oval: it has no beginning and it has no end,” said Elder De Feo.
The open house for many government and community leaders, leaders in the Vatican and leaders of other faiths will continue for two weeks. Then the public open house begins and will continue for a month. Thousands of people are expected to attend.
The temple dedication has been scheduled for March 10-12.