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Popular Christian author Nancy Leigh DeMoss said the following on her radio show:

One hundred years ago Messina was a prosperous, gorgeous coastal city on the Italian island of Sicily, just off the toe of the boot there. This city of Messina had a population of about 150,000, but it had become a wicked and irreligious city. On Christmas day of 1908, a local newspaper in Messina published a blasphemous parody against God. In that article they dared God to make Himself known by sending an earthquake.

Exactly three days later, December the 28th, 1908, at 5:30 in the morning, a huge earthquake and a massive tidal wave came and utterly destroyed Messina and dozens of nearby towns.

The newspaper is not named and I find mention of this only in other sermon-related sites. Is there any historical evidence for this claim and its timing relative to the earthquake?

The timing of the earthquake itself is clear from history, but on this newspaper article I've found nothing yet.

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    Even if the claim is true, nothing says it was necessarily supernatural. Coincidences do happen. – PointlessSpike Jul 20 '15 at 13:50
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    @PointlessSpike Agreed, and my question does not ask to prove/disprove anything about the supernatural – Lessac Jul 20 '15 at 13:57
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    I like the "exactly three days later". I wonder if the quake was on the same day as the paper was published (if it's real) would that be even more amazing. One day later, two, three. Seven. Exactly one month later. At the same day next year. Maybe 666 days before the quake there was something even more offensive in a completely different newspaper. – Mikey Mouse Jul 20 '15 at 15:30
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    We should also consider how many similar challenges were made in prior weeks and years, without there having been an earthquake 3 days later. – jamesqf Jul 21 '15 at 0:17
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    If God really levels a city just because He doesn't like an article posted in a local newspaper, He sounds kind of like a mean drunk... – Shadur Jul 24 '15 at 23:30
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From the 30 April 1910 "The Young Lutheran's Companion" of Rock Island Illinois (formerly the Augustana Journal) at page 2:

The comic paper "Il Telefono", published in Messina and possessing a very vulgar anti-religious character, contained in its Christmas number a satirical poem on "The Little Child Jesus". One of the stanzas freely translated is as follows:

'O little child who wouldest be
Not man alone but also God:
For thy dear cross' sake, pray we,
Let loud and clear thy voice us hear;
Since we, the living, know thee well,
Do thou send us an earthquake fell'

A separate statement in another paper is also discussed.

The Lutheran publication cites to an Italian newspaper "Corriere d'Italia" and an unspecified German newspaper as sources.

Essentially the same information is in the 07 February 1909 San Francisco Call, at page 7, first to second columns.

An Italian source, confirms the above and gives the Italian text of the poem as:

Mio piccolo bambino
vero uomo, vero Dio
Per l’amore della croce
rispondi alla nostra voce:
se tu non sei veramente un Mito,
schiacciaci sotto un terremoto.

The best sources available are not in English.

French sources (cited below) explain that Vincent Caudo (Vincenzo Caudo in Italian)editor of the Messina "l'Etoile" (La Scintilla in Italian) newspaper, being a refugee in Catalina in the immediate aftermath of the Earthquake, wrote a letter to the Italian newspaper "Corriere d'Italia", which was published 05 January 1909.

Très distingué directeur, je vous prie de vouloir bien faire connaître dans votre journal ce fait vrai- ment impressionnant.

Depuis quelque temps Messine était aux mains des anticléricaux et ceux-ci, le dimanche précédant l'horrible catastrophe, tinrent un comité suivi d'une réunion où fut voté un violent ordre du jour contre la religion.

Je ne veux tirer aucune conclusion de cet événe- ment, mais j'estime que nous devons signaler com- bien impressionnante est cette coïncidence.

Le journal Il Téléphono qui s'imprime à Messine et dont le caractère est brutalement antireligieux, pu- blia, dans son numéro de Noël, une honteuse parodie de la « Neuvaine de Jésus enfant » ou, entre autres strophes, on lisait celle-ci :

O mon petit gamin
Vrai homme, vrai Dieu,
Pour l'amour dé ta croix
Réponds à notre voix :
Si tu n'es vraiment pas un mythe,
Ecrase-nous tous sous un tremblement de terre.

Il est suggestif de se rappeler ces vers aujourd'hui. Je n'ajouterai pas d'autres commentaires.

Votre tout dévoué, Sac. Vincent Caudo, Directeur de l'Eioile de Messine, refugié à Catane.

Sources:
Le vieux de la montagne; pour faire suite au Mendiant ingrat, a Mon journal, a Quatre ans de captivité a Cochons-sur-Marne et a l'Invendable; 1907-1910 at page 196

and

The 16 January 1909 edition of the newspaper l'Echo du Finistere (front page right-most column).

See also Italian sources such as the 1962 book Il terremoto di Messina: corrispondenze, testimonianze e polemiche giornalistiche:

La strofe incriminata cominciò a circolare dalle colonne del CORRIERE D'ITALIA sin dal 5 gennaio 1909, dopo che il P. Vincenzo Caudo « direttore della Scintilla di Messina ricoverato a Catania », la trasmise con la seguente lettera:

And the more recent book Messina 1908: i disastri e la percezione del terrore nell'evento terremoto:

La poesia fu trasmessa al «Corriere d'Italia», che la riportò in prima pagina il 5 gennaio, da padre Vincenzo Caudo, ricoverato in quel momento a Catania, direttore de «La Scintilla», giornale messinese di impronta cattolica, e fu portata a

Both of which further confirm that the offending verse of the poem began circulating due to publication in the Corriere d'Italia 5 January 1909 of the letter of Vincenzo Caudo, editor of the La Scintilla newspaper in Messina.

  • That should be "Corriere d'Italia", not "carriere" – Sklivvz Jul 24 '15 at 15:50
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    So the first instance of the poem you found was published 16 months after the earthquake? What should we conclude? – Oddthinking Jul 24 '15 at 17:08
  • @Oddthinking the first English source I found is 16 months after. The Italian source says the "Corriere d'Italia" article was "5 gennaio 1908", which I think means 5 January 1909, or about a week after the earthquake. – DavePhD Jul 24 '15 at 17:25
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    I like the way the pious Lutherans went to all the trouble of translating the Italian ditty into English rhymed couplets. – fdb Jul 25 '15 at 23:49

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