A Beacon of Faith: The Life of Eros Valentino Bacoccina (1922- 2022)
With a profound sense of loss and respect, we recognize the life and achievements of Eros Valentino Bacoccina. The sad news of his passing on November 21st, 2022, in his San Jose, California home reached us only a few weeks ago.
Eros, a devoted husband, loving father, doting grandfather, and proud great-grandfather, was born and raised in the scenic city of Lucca, Italy, in 1927. His life took a huge turn when he immigrated to San Francisco, California, 1948 at age 21. After uniting in matrimony with the love of his life, Carla Giovannoni, in 1951, they raised a beautiful family of five daughters together.
Eros initially made his living in America as a painter and designer. However, his life took a divine detour in 1965 when he was ordained as a minister, leading him to establish the Iormer Italian Baptist Church at 39 Amazon Ave., in San Francisco (CA). He served the congregation faithfully as a pastor for 37 years, and his services weren’t limited to the pulpit; he extended his care and spiritual guidance to hospitals and prisons as a chaplain.
His dedication and faith have been conveyed globally through the airwaves on IRRS (the Italian Radio Relay Service on FM, AM/MW and SW), European Gospel Radio, and NEXUS-IBA since early 1980 on the radio program “La Buona Novella” (The Good News). As we process the news of his passing, we celebrate Eros’s life and legacy, cherishing his memory and remarkable impact on countless lives.
From Altar Boy to Revered Pastor: The Early Years
Eros Valentino Bacoccina was born in Sorbano del Vescovo, Lucca, Italy, on April 9, 1927, where he resided for the first twenty-one years. He was born into a Roman Catholic family. He lived adjacent to a Catholic institution, the Artigianelli orphanage, which his family served with honour and devotion.
Once, at his home in San Jose, CA, Eros made fun with me of his second name, “Valentino“: “Entirely inappropriate” for a Baptist Pastor – he said – and told me that he never liked it and wanted to be known simply as Eros Bacoccina.
His family was deeply Catholic and faithfully attended the local church and other Catholic institutions. He served as an altar boy and participated daily in the family rosary. Although the religious activities were vibrant and ornate, they confused and dissatisfied him.
At the age of ten, he became an altar boy. For him, there was no other religion or church. He had never laid his eyes on a Bible. He grew up believing that he was a sinner and that God’s wrath was upon him, for it was because of his sins that Jesus, His divine Son, had been forced to suffer and die on the cross.
In 1948, at 21, he immigrated to San Francisco, California, with his sister Tina and his mother, Dina. They joined their father, Angelo, in San Francisco. Angelo Bacoccina was just out of several US internment camps, being considered an enemy alien during World World II and under investigation as a prominent figure during the Fascism among the Italians in the San Francisco area, a teacher at the San Francisco Italian Language School and an occasional speaker at the KLS radio station in nearby Oakland, CA. In California, Bacoccina took up painting and design.
While in California, Eros worked as a painter and designer. After a few years, through his hard work, he became a successful businessman in San Francisco.
Yet, his spiritual journey continued. He encountered resistance in his Catholic church when he sought a direct connection with God. Undeterred, Bacoccina continued his quest for spiritual enlightenment.
Crossing Paths with Amelio Giannetta: A Turning Point
In 1951 Eros married Carla Giovanonni. One Sunday, while in San Francisco, he saw a man speaking in Italian about God on the radio. The message was novel and different. The speaker conveyed a sense of deep knowledge and intimacy with God, talking of His greatness, mercy, and the salvation possible and available to all men by faith and grace. This was precisely what Bacoccina was seeking, exactly what he needed. The program was titled “Buona Novella,” and the speaker was Amelio Giannetta, the Home Mission Board missionary for Italians.
Bacoccina wrote to Giannetta, who visited him in response. The bond between the two men deepened when Bacoccina wrote to Giannetta, who responded by visiting him and gifting him an Italian New Testament. This gift, coupled with Giannetta’s teachings and the continued exposure to the radio broadcasts, led Bacoccina on a path of profound transformation. Five months later, he accepted Christ as his Savior, an event that marked a significant shift in his spiritual journey. In 1965, Eros Bacoccina became an ordained Baptist Church minister. Eros joined the Italian Baptist Church at 39 Amazon Rd, in San Francisco, where he served as Pastor for 37 years. He also worked as a Chaplain for numerous hospitals and prisons.
Eros’s journey took a significant turn when he chanced upon a radio broadcast by Amelio Giannetta, the Home Mission Board missionary for Italians. The program titled “Buona Novella” was a breath of fresh air for Bacoccina. He was drawn to Giannetta’s teachings, his deep knowledge of God, and the salvation he promised all men could achieve through faith and grace.
Becoming the Italian Pastor at 39 Amazon Avenue, San Francisco, California, USA
His newfound faith inspired Eros to lead others on a similar journey. His dedication and commitment led him to become an ordained minister in 1965, and soon after, he founded the Italian Baptist Church at 39 Amazon Avenue in San Francisco, California. He served as Pastor there for an impressive 37 years, touching countless lives with his teachings and guidance.
Despite the many challenges he faced along the way, including criticism and resistance from influential figures like Harold Camping, the controversial president and owner of Family Radio, Bacoccina remained steadfast in his mission. His resilience saw him continue his Christian mission through his own radio program, “La Buona Novella,” which aired on NEXUS-IBA stations daily.
Worldwide Preaching: The Legacy of Eros Bacoccina
Eros Bacoccina will forever be remembered for his steadfast faith, commitment to worldwide preaching, and his significant contributions to Christian radio and shortwave radio broadcasting. His journey from a young altar boy in Italy to a globally recognized Italian Pastor serves as an inspiration to many.
Eros’s life is a testament to the transformative power of faith and perseverance. He leveraged the medium of radio to spread the teachings of Christ and touched countless lives in the process. He was a beacon of hope for many, a guiding light that shone brightly in times of spiritual confusion.
Despite his passing, his legacy lives on. His sermons continue to inspire people worldwide, offering solace and guidance to those seeking a deeper connection with their faith. His life story is a testament to his unwavering faith and serves as an inspiration to many.
His journey from Italy to the shores of California, from an altar boy to an influential pastor, from a spiritual seeker to a beacon of faith, is a narrative that will continue to inspire and guide future generations. Eros Bacoccina’s life was a testament to the power of faith, the reach of Christian mission, and the transformative power of a personal relationship with God.
Eros Bacoccina: A Life in Service to the Italian Christian Radio Mission
Eros Bacoccina was born in Italy into a deeply Catholic family. His life was deeply entrenched in the practices and beliefs of the Catholic Church. Despite his early religious involvement, Bacoccina had an unquenched spiritual hunger. After immigrating to California in 1948, he sought to grow closer to God but felt obstructed by the church’s teachings. This spiritual journey set the stage for Bacoccina’s transition into the world of Christian radio broadcasting.
Eros Bacoccina’s life transformed when he tuned into a Christian radio program named “Buona Novella,” hosted by Home Mission Board missionary Amello Giannetta for Italians. The novel perspective on faith and God’s relationship with humans filled Bacoccina’s heart with hope, launching his lifelong devotion to radio broadcasting, particularly shortwave radio, as a means for worldwide preaching.
With the guidance of Giannetta and the transformative messages of the New Testament, Bacoccina found his personal relationship with God, eventually accepting Christ as his Savior. This decision marked the end of his spiritual quest and the beginning of his Christian mission to bring the message of salvation to Italians worldwide.
A Radio Evangelist is Born at la Buona Novella Broadcasts
From a 30-minute weekly program in the San Francisco Bay Area that began in 1954, Eros Bacoccina’s message went to all of California and seven states in the continental USA. Then la Buona Novella (Good News) Ministry also started in Italy, and at one point, they had 24 radio stations broadcasting the Gospel daily.
The radio ministry of La Buona Novella continued for half a century as the Gospel of Jesus Christ was preached over the air in the Italian language both in the United States and Europe. Each program brought to light the simple and yet fathomless truths found in God’s word and presented timeless principles to the lost and to believers alike, and covered various programs and themes:
- Christian counselling in Italian
- Gospel Messages
- Bible quiz.
- Woman to Woman radio episodes
Pastor Eros Bacoccina’s voice brought the Gospel worldwide on Shortwave and locally on FM and received mail from 50 nations. When Government regulations and pressure from other religious groups forced many evangelical radio stations off the air, La Buona Novella started over the Internet with a new website with the help of NEXUS-IBA and European Gospel Radio.
Eros Bacoccina: The Italian Pastor at Family Radio (WYFR)
Eros Bacoccina was known worldwide for his daily program in Italian on Family Radio (WYFR), broadcast on Shortwave from Okeechobee, Florida. He was known internally as “The Italian Pastor” and the only Italian radio speaker at Family Radio. The controversial president and owner of Family Radio, Harold Camping (July 19, 1921 – December 15, 2013), hired him to barely translate Campings’ messages from English to Italian.
Eros visited our FM station in Milano in the early 1980s. We met him again several times in his home in San Jose, where he lived with his beloved wife, Carla. In our private conversations with Eros, he described Harold Camping as an engineer who made his fortunes in the construction business but had little or no theological education.
Harold Egbert Camping, the powerful boss of Family Radio, was also the most prominent evangelist radio broadcaster on the English radio service of Family Radio and WYFR (on Shortwave), owned by Family Stations, Inc., with headquarters in Hegeberer Rd, California. WYFR ceased all shortwave transmissions on July 1, 2013. In December 2013, Jeff White, the owner of WRMI, formerly operating from Miami, purchased the WYFR shortwave transmission facility in Okeechobee, FL.
Harold Camping became notorious for a series of failed predictions about the End Times. As the president of Family Radio from 1958, he oversaw a station group that, at its zenith, reached more than 150 markets in the United States. Camping’s prophesies, particularly his forecast that the Second Coming of Christ would occur on May 21, 2011, attracted global attention and significant donations. However, when the anticipated events failed to transpire, he faced widespread ridicule and criticism, particularly after his revised prediction for the final destruction of the universe on October 21, 2011, also proved incorrect. Despite retiring from active broadcasting following a stroke in 2011, Camping maintained a role at Family Radio until his death. In the wake of his unsuccessful predictions, he admitted his attempts to set dates were “sinful” and retreated from his insistence on knowing the timing of the Rapture or the end of the world.
Tensions Rise: Harold Camping’s Suspicions and Eros Bacoccina’s Interpretations
An intriguing dynamic evolved between Harold Camping and Eros Bacoccina at Family Radio. Known for his idiosyncratic interpretations of biblical prophecy, Camping’s doctrines were anything but orthodox. Eros Bacoccina, tasked with translating Camping’s English sermons into Italian, faced a considerable challenge. The contrasting ideologies between the two led to an inevitable clash, a conflict that significantly impacted Bacoccina’s tenure at Family Radio.
In his private talks at his home in San Jose, Eros was highly critical of Camping’s doctrine and preaching over Family Radio. Still, he believed Family Radio was so powerful to reach and evangelise Italians through Shortwave radio. Being critical of Camping implied that he had to interpret Harold Camping’s doctrine when translating his messages from English to Italian.
Bacoccina, valuing his duty to listeners, took liberties in interpreting Camping’s messages. Striving to ensure his translations aligned more closely with traditional Christian theology, he injected his understanding and personal faith into the translations. He perceived it as necessary to provide a more familiar message of hope and faith to his Italian-speaking audience rather than the unconventional apocalyptic prophecies of Camping.
However, Camping grew suspicious of Bacoccina’s approach. Concerned that his original doctrines were being lost in translation, he took the initiative to have Bacoccina’s Italian radio programs translated back into English. Upon reviewing these translations, Camping’s suspicions were confirmed. Bacoccina was not simply translating; he was reinterpreting.
Camping severely reprimanded Bacoccina for his approach. The event highlighted the tension between Camping’s rigid adherence to his unique doctrine and Bacoccina’s traditional Christian worldview. This clash of ideologies ultimately led to Bacoccina’s decision to resign from Family Radio, marking a pivotal moment in his religious journey.
After a few months, Eros decided to resign, so the Italian service of Family Radio (WYFR) was soon discontinued. Eros Bacoccina, as the Pastor of the Italian church at 39 Amazon Avenue in San Francisco, was able to retain support from a group of Italian emigrants in the San Francisco and the Bay area and was able to support the production of his own daily 30-minute radio program in Italian called “La Buona Novella”. This program and the original program from Family Radio were broadcast on NEXUS-IBA stations daily on FM and Shortwave for several years since 1979.
Family Ties: The Indispensable Roles of Carla Bacoccina and Tina Scopazzi
No account of Pastor Eros Bacoccina’s remarkable journey would be complete without recognizing the essential roles played by his wife, Carla Bacoccina, and Eros’ sister, Tina Scopazzi. Through every major milestone and every minor challenge that Bacoccina faced, these two remarkable women remained his pillars of support, demonstrating an unwavering commitment to his Christian mission.
A devoted wife and mother, Carla offered emotional sustenance and active engagement in Bacoccina’s work. She shared his vision of spreading the Gospel, and their home became a hub of his mission-related activities. Carla’s knack for organization and her unwavering patience and understanding contributed significantly to Bacoccina’s ability to manage the rigours of his pastoral duties, radio broadcasts, and evangelistic efforts.
Tina Bacoccina Scopazzi was another instrumental figure in his life and mission. With her firm belief in his cause and her strong spirit, she provided much-needed familial support. Tina’s involvement was crucial in the early stages of Bacoccina’s ministry, where she provided guidance and often acted as a sounding board for his thoughts and ideas. Their bond, forged through shared experiences and deep-rooted love, was a testament to the power of family support in fostering Bacoccina’s evangelical ambitions.
The Dawn of La Buona Novella
After Eros Bacoccina departed from Family Radio, he continued on his project, initially founded by Amelio Giannetta in San Francisco, CA, producing his daily 30-minute radio program called “La Buona Novella“.
On the 4th of July 2013, on its 60th anniversary since its foundation, La Buona Novella Broadcasts (a California non-profit organisation) ceased all operations, mainly for lack of support from listeners and the ageing and dying group of supporters in the USA. Eros Bacoccina was also becoming old and finally retired. For several months, his radio programs and repeats were relayed again via NEXUS-IBA transmitters on AM/Medium Wave and Shortwave.
A Legacy of Faith and Service
Despite the cessation of operations by La Buona Novella Broadcasts in 2013 due to a lack of support and the ageing donor base, Bacoccina’s radio programs were still relayed for a few months on our stations. His legacy lived on through the International Evangelical Fellowship, a group of Italian emigrants who shared Bacoccina’s commitment to spreading the Gospel Message of Christ. From its inception in 1954, the ministry’s mission was to preach Jesus Christ’s message to Italians worldwide.
A Legacy of Love: Eros Bacoccina’s Family
Pastor Eros Bacoccina’s great legacy also lies in the family he and his wife, Carla, nurtured with immense love and faith. Their five daughters – Joyce, Angela, Jeanine, Esther, and Anette – are a testament to their parents’ dedication to instilling the values of compassion, integrity, and love for God. The Bacoccina family’s strong Christian foundation continues to be a beacon for many, demonstrating the transformative power of faith and the love of God.
These values have been lovingly passed down to Bacoccina’s 14 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Each carries a piece of Pastor Bacoccina’s spirit and his enduring dedication to serving God. They continue to honour their beloved grandfather and great-grandfather by living out the principles he held dear and upholding the Christian faith he diligently propagated.
From his native Italy to his adopted homeland of the United States, Pastor Bacoccina’s legacy extends far beyond his biological family. As the spiritual father to countless listeners of his radio broadcasts and the congregants of his church, his influence continues to reverberate in the hearts of the many lives he touched. His life is a testament to the transformative power of faith, demonstrating how one man’s journey towards God can light the path for countless others.
A Final Farewell
Eros Bacoccina, and estimated international broadcaster, beloved husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, passed away on November 21, 2022. He is remembered for his service as an ordained minister and for his commitment to sharing the Gospel through the radio program La Buona Novella, broadcast worldwide. Eros Bacoccina’s tireless dedication to the Christian mission of reaching Italians worldwide with the Gospel will continue to inspire those who continue his work.
Eros Bacoccina’s life tells the story of a spiritual journey fueled by a relentless quest for a personal relationship with God. His story reflects the power of faith to transform lives and communities. Bacoccina’s journey from an altar boy in Italy to a pioneer of Italian Christian radio broadcasting in the US is a testament to his deep faith and commitment to serving others. His legacy of worldwide preaching and Christian mission continues to inspire and guide future generations.