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Samuele Bacchiocchi claims Catholic University
is libeling him and wants an apology
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Seventh-day Adventist Samuele Bacchiocchi claims
Catholic University is libeling him and wants an apology
By Dixon Cartwright

A prominent Sabbatarian Christian says he has suffered verbal attacks on his integrity in the form of false accusations from officials at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Italy.

Samuele Bacchiocchi, a retired professor at Andrews University, a school in Berrien Springs, Mich., sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, is known to many Church of God members as a scholarly defender of the Sabbath and its observance, especially in his 1977 book From Sabbath to Sunday.

The attacks on his character have been devastating, Dr. Bacchiocchi reports, especially statements from Barbara Bergami, general secretary of the university where Dr. Bacchiocchi completed work on his doctorate in 1975.

From Sabbath to Sunday is a book based on his dissertation. It, as well as Dr. Bacchiocchi's whole situation, is unusual in that he, a Seventh-day Adventist, for five years attended and graduated from a university sponsored by the Society of Jesus, better known as the Jesuits.

For years his dissertation and book garnered glowing praise from prominent Catholics including his adviser during his course of study, Professor Vincenzo Monachino.

Further, Dr. Bacchiocchi says he:

  • Graduated summa cum laude.
  • Received silver and gold medals from Pope Paul VI for his scholarly achievements at the school.
  • Had his entire dissertation accepted for publication by the university. (To save printing costs, he chose to publish an abbreviated version of 144 pages rather than the original 528.)
  • Received an imprimatur, a mark of acknowledgment, from the Vatican for his work.

So what went wrong?

A medical doctor living in South Africa, Stephen Korsman, came across an account of Dr. Bacchiocchi's study at the university and found it difficult to believe that, as an Adventist, he would be allowed to study at the school, earn a doctorate with academic distinction, receive medals donated by the pope and have his dissertation published at the university with the imprimatur--acknowledgment--of the Catholic Church.

So Dr. Korsman, a devout Catholic, wrote the university and inquired about Dr. Bacchiocchi.

Unfortunately for the Adventist professor, an official at the university wrote to Dr. Korsman, and later others, that Dr. Bacchiocchi was wildly misrepresenting himself and his achievements.

Dr. Bergami wrote in June 2004 that Dr. Bacchiocchi did not graduate with high distinction (she said his grades "were not very good here"), that he received no medal from Pope Paul, that he was barred from publishing his dissertation in whole and that his work received no imprimatur.

After waiting in vain for church or school officials to set the record straight, Dr. Bacchiocchi is fighting back. He has posted extensive information about the situation on his Web site, including photos of the medals Pope Paul awarded him, his degree certificates, the document validating the imprimatur and more.

He acknowledges that his acceptance to the course of study in 1969 was the kind of thing that didn't happen every day.

"My acceptance at the Gregoriana in the fall of 1969 marked the admission of the first 'separated brother' into a regular study program in over 400 years of history of the university," he said.

School officials and fellow students treated him cordially and with respect during his study and for years afterwards. But his present-day detractors number even fellow Seventh-day Adventists, some of whom accuse him of secretly being a Jesuit. Outlandish rumors include the allegation that Dr. Bacchiocchi is "paid by the Vatican to do subversive activities" within the SDA Church.

The latest result of persecution from fellow Adventists "is the cancellation of my speaking engagement in Toronto, Canada, for Dec. 8-9, 2006," he said.

"In spite of the repeated efforts of Pastor Clarence Baptiste, a former student of mine, to reassure the board members that I am a genuine Adventist with no Jesuit connections of any kind, church-board members were brainwashed by an elder, and they succeeded in pressuring the pastor to cancel the invitation."

Ironically, Dr. Bacchiocchi has good things to say about Dr. Korsman, the M.D. from South Africa who at first was skeptical that an SDA could attend a school at the Vatican. "Rather than giving heed to gossip," Dr. Korsman "decided to learn the truth about me ..."

On his Web site, Dr. Bacchiocchi goes into great, even tedious, detail to answer his critics, chief among them Dr. Bergami of the university, who, in a letter to Bishop James Murray of the Kalamazoo Diocese in Michigan, enumerated her allegations against Dr. Bacchiocchi.

Dr. Bacchiocchi says he has repeatedly attempted to communicate with Bishop Murray, but the churchman apparently is avoiding him.

"My next step," Dr. Bacchiocchi said, "is to repackage all this information in an official document that will be sent both to the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and to Bishop Murray ... I will simply ask them to help me to put an end to the raging controversy about me in cyberspace by issuing a retraction and an apology for their false allegations.

"If this happens, I will gladly forgive and forget all the pain they have caused me. If they stonewall by refusing to reply, as they have done until now, then legal action may be necessary."

See Dr. Bacchiocchi's detailed account, including Dr. Bergami's letter to Bishop Murray, at

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