A New People

Nomadelfia is a community population of Catholic volunteers who put the evangelical fraternity at the foundation of his life.

Our desire is to show that it is possible to live the Gospel in social form by giving oneself completely to others, thus realizing those principles of justice and fraternity that we have chosen to follow. Currently, Nomadelfia is made up of about 300 people.

Nomadelfia is a population of families and individuals, including some priests. Joining Nomadelfia means responding to a vocation.

The components of Nomadelfia

Nomadelfia's population is made up of families, unmarried people and priests. You become Nomadelfi after a three-year trial period. 

I figli sono i minori nati o accolti nella Comunità. THE sacerdoti e i diaconi condividono la vita del gruppo familiare e della comunità al pari degli altri fratelli. Il rapporto fra loro ed il loro vescovo è disciplinato da un’apposita Convenzione. 

The mother of vocation is an unmarried woman who gives herself entirely to children from a difficult situation, the "children of abandonment".

It is one of the historically and spiritually most important figures in Nomadelfia , because it is thanks to the vocational mothers that Nomadelfia was able to take its first steps.

The mother by vocation is not a care figure, she is not a nun or a professional educator: she is a mother , and remains so throughout the course of life.

Our history


Nomadelfia is the result of a long individual and community journey.

Individual because our values, our principles, our way of life come from the charism that incarnated in our founder, Don Zeno Saltini (1900-1981). Community because this charisma gathers around it a group of families and individuals who have chosen to follow it, on a journey of sharing life.

In 1931, during his first mass, Don Zeno took as a son a young man who had just come out of prison. In 1941 Irene Bertoni, a young high school student, offered to mother the children welcomed in the rectory. After the Second World War, married couples will join.

"Change civilization, starting with myself": with this affirmation, Don Zeno invited us to build, now, the world in which our brothers will live tomorrow.


1900 - 1920 - THE YOUNG ZENO

Zeno Saltini was born in Fossoli di Carpi (MO) on August 30, 1900, in a patriarchal family. From his grandfather, Zeno learns respect for workers and a sense of responsibility towards the weakest. At 14 and a half years old, he refuses to continue his studies, stating that at school they teach things that do not affect life, and goes to work on the family farms: he lives among the laborers, knows their miseries and shares the right aspirations.


Armed soldier in the barracks of the III Telegraphists in Florence, Zeno has a verbal confrontation with an anarchist friend in the presence of the other soldiers. The anarchist argues that Christ and the Church are an obstacle to human progress. Zeno argues otherwise, while acknowledging that Christians are largely inconsistent. But the anarchist is educated and he is not: among the whistles of the other soldiers, Zeno withdraws by himself and decides: “I will answer him with my life. Change civilization starting with myself. All my life I no longer want to be a servant or a master ”.

He decides to study law and theology, while continuing to devote himself to apostolate and the recovery of stranded children. He graduated in law at the Catholic University of Milan: he intended to defend those who could not pay a defender as a lawyer. Later, however, he realizes that his mission is to prevent the poor from falling out of favor, and for this reason he decides to become a priest.


After training as a priest, Don Zeno celebrates his first Mass in the cathedral of Carpi. At the altar he takes a 17-year-old boy as soon as he is released from prison: Danilo.


At S. Giacomo Roncole, near Mirandola (MO), Don Zeno welcomes other abandoned children as children and founds the Opera Piccoli Apostoli. He swore on the altar that he would never go to college, but he realizes that, in order for this to be possible, his children must also have the love of a mother. In 1941 a young student, Irene, ran away from home and introduced herself to Don Zeno declaring herself willing to act as a mother to the Little Apostles. Don Zeno, with the approval of the bishop, entrusts the little ones to her and a new, virginal motherhood is born with her. Other young women follow her, they are the "vocation mothers". Some priests join Don Zeno and start a community clergy.

1943-1945 - THE RESISTANCE

With the armistice of September 8, 1943, the Germans occupied Italy. Don Zeno, who had repeatedly taken a stand against fascism, war and racial laws, left for the South. Some children followed him to escape deportations to Germany. Meanwhile, in S. Giacomo, the Opera is severely persecuted, and attempts are made to disperse it.

Several young Little Apostles enter the partisan formations, while some PA priests contribute to the organization of the resistance, helping hundreds of Jews and persecuted politicians to reach Switzerland with false documents. Seven Little Apostles lose their lives for the reconquest of freedom.


After the end of the war, in 1947, the Little Apostles occupied the former concentration camp of Fossoli, near Carpi, to build their new city. They break down walls and barbed wire, while the first married families are formed alongside the families of vocation mothers, who ask Don Zeno to be able to welcome their abandoned children, determined to love them on a par with those who will be born from their marriage.

On February 14, 1948, the population approved the text of a Constitution which would be signed on the altar. The Opera Piccoli Apostoli thus becomes Nomadelfia, which means from the Greek: "Where fraternity is law".


In the midst of reconstruction and political conflicts, Nomadelfia offers the people a political movement called the "Human Fraternity Movement", to abolish all forms of exploitation and to promote direct democracy. But the hostility of political forces to the government and some ecclesiastical circles blocks the initiative.

Meanwhile, the economic situation of Nomadelfia is getting heavier: the population reaches 1150 people, of whom 800 children are welcomed, many of whom need special care, and 150 homeless and jobless guests.


Given the economic situation of Nomadelfia, on 5 February 1952 the Holy Office ordered Don Zeno to leave the community. Don Zeno obeys. Forced to abandon Fossoli, the Nomadelfi take refuge in Grosseto, on an estate of several hundred hectares to be reclaimed, donated by Maria Giovanna Albertoni Pirelli, where they mostly live under tents.

While far from his children, Don Zeno tries to provide for their needs, and more and more often he has to defend some of them in court who, torn from the families of Nomadelfia, have fallen into the underworld.


Don Zeno therefore asks the Pope to temporarily renounce the exercise of the priesthood to return to the guidance of his children. In 1953 Pius XII granted him secularization "pro gratia". He puts down his robe, returns among his children. The Nomadelfi after the diaspora are about 400. In 1954, Don Zeno created the "family groups".


In 1961 the nomadelfs gave themselves a new Constitution as a civil association, and Don Zeno asked the Holy See to resume the exercise of the priesthood. Nomadelfia is erected in the parish and Don Zeno appointed parish priest. On 22 January 1962 he celebrated his "second first mass".


In 1965, Don Zeno offered nomadelfi a new form of apostolate: the "Nomadelfia Evenings", a dance show.
In 1968 the publication of the monthly "Nomadelfia is a proposal" begins. In the same year the nomadelfi obtained from the Ministry of Education to educate their children under their responsibility, in their own internal school.


On August 12, 1980, when Don Zeno was now in his eighties, the nomadelfi presented to Giovanni Paolo II, in the villa of Castelgandolfo, an "Evening". The whole population of Nomadelfia is present. Among other things, the Pope says: "If we are called to be children of God and among us brothers, then the rule that is called Nomadelfia is a notice and a prediction of this future world where we are all called".


A few months after the meeting with the Pope, Don Zeno is hit by a heart attack. Before losing consciousness, he addressed a few words to the Nomadelfs, which can be considered his spiritual testament. He died in Nomadelfia on January 15, 1981, while the Pope received a delegation of Nomadelfi, with whom he prayed for him and sent his blessing.


Eight years after the death of Don Zeno, the Pope personally goes to Nomadelfia "to see how and where the community lives and works". Visit a family group and baptize the youngest child in our church. In the tent theater two dances from the "Evenings" are presented to him. In the end, the Pope speaks to about 4000 people, including nomadelfi, ex-nomadelfi and friends from all over Italy.

“You know well, because Don Zeno taught you with his life, that in a world sometimes hostile and far from faith, it is necessary to respond with the testimony of one's life, with works and visible signs of brotherly love. Nomadelfia can do this and knows how to do it, since it is a people that is inspired, as its name says, by the law of fraternity. Long live Nomadelfia! "


27 years after the visit of Pope John Paul II, the entire population of Nomadelfia is received by Pope Francis in the Vatican, in the Sala Clementina. This event constitutes further confirmation of the fact that Nomadelfia is in harmony with the Church.

Link to the Speech>

10 MAGGIO 2018 – PAPA FRANCESCO a Nomadelfia

On 10 May 2018, Pope Francis goes on an apostolic visit to Nomadelfia and Loppiano. In Nomadelfia he visits a family group and meets the entire population gathered for the occasion. "Nomadelfia is a prophetic reality", he says, "which aims to create a new civilization, implementing the Gospel as a good and beautiful way of life". 

Link to Pope Francis' Speech>

Nomadelfia in the Church

In the Church, Nomadelfia is a private association of the faithful. The constitution was approved by the Holy See, definitively, with decree Prot. N. 94001494 of 18 June 2000.

Nomadelfia is also a parish of the Diocese of Grosseto, a "community parish".

Nomadelfia in the state

In relation to the state, Nomadelfia is a civil association without legal personality (Constitutive Act was approved on March 22, 2013).

Nomadelfia also operates through an agricultural cooperative, a cultural cooperative and a foundation.

Our "Constitution"

Both as a civil association and as a private association of the faithful, Nomadelfia has adopted its own constitution, plus a series of regulations, which together guarantee the democracy and transparency of the decisions taken within the community. Nomadelfia is in fact a direct democracy, which is expressed through elections and votes. All votes and elections are also confirmed with a unanimous vote, to guarantee the unity of the population.