When the Vatican opened its doors to KEFA – here’s what happened

The story of two makeshift heroes with an almost impossible feat to accomplish

For Carmelo Caruso and Gianluigi Di Lorenzo, the founders of KEFA, the doors of the Vatican were always right there, just outside the window of their office at the Ministry.  But if they thought they could simply stretch out a hand to open them … well, they were truly mistaken.

Here’s how they dealt with a bureaucratic machine as complex as that of the Secretariat of Vatican State.

A story worth telling

That which we are about to tell you is not a Dan Brown thriller, in which we will expose the most sordid secrets of the Vatican, revealing their legends in a thrilling traipse around the Holy City.

Yet, in its own way, this story is just as full of twists and it even takes place in Rome.  Reading on, you will encounter obstacles to be overcome, courageous deeds and acts of faith. You will discover the most inflexible aspects but also the most charitable side of the Holy See, until you reach the very heart of the Vatican, in the presence of none other than His Holiness Pope Francis, where our heroes present him with their most valued possession.

Modern heroes with big dreams to accomplish

The unlikely heroes of this story, with whom you may – if you want – identify, are two state officials, Carmelo Caruso and Gianluigi Di Lorenzo, who one day, in pursuit of their dream, found themselves before an apparently insurmountable wall: that of the Vatican State.

Their goal was to be able to obtain an exclusive concession to utilise two official symbols linked to Christianity: the emblem of the Vatican City State and the coat of arms of Pope Francis. A license that only the Vatican Secretariat of State, with the authorisation of the Pope himself, has the power to grant.

What was their dream?  To make the Petrus a watch that was more unique than rare. A limited series of numbered pieces, inspired by the current Pope, with the two prestigious symbols fused onto the dial and caseback. A true treasure on the wrist that stands out thanks to the strength of the values and meanings contained in its emblems.

The value of a hero is measured by their values

An ambitious dream, no doubt, but not unattainable given that in any good story, the hero always has an ace up their sleeve; something that can turn things in their favour, some inner capacity that renders them pure and deserving of the coveted reward. On their side, Carmelo and Gianluigi had an unwavering faith in the project and, yes, also some contacts that they could, perhaps, call upon.

At that time, Carmelo was actually a volunteer auditor for the Vatican Science and Faith Foundation – STOQ and spoke daily with the president of the same. Gianluigi, rather, is passionate about heraldry and for several years, had been involved also on a volunteer basis, in designing and drawing the coats of arms of newly-elected bishops, archbishops and cardinals from all over the world. Hence, each had their own inroads to the spiritual powers that be in connection with their common underlying will: to express a closeness to the Christian faith with deeds and commitment.

Privileged positions, if you will, as they could provide, at least in an ideal world, easier access to the “papal throne”. But things did not go so smoothly– the road to the realisation of their dream would, in fact, prove to be a slow and difficult journey.

Meeting with the giant: the Vatican’s Secretariat of State throws a spanner in the works

The President of the Foundation actually took on the task of presenting the request, accompanied by drafts and drawings of the watch, to the Vatican Secretariat of State.  But once you enter into the gigantic bureaucratic workings of such a complex machine as that of the Holy See, the cogs move very slowly, leaving our heroes in a state of limbo where all they could do was wait and hope. It all proved to be in vain because, after several months, the answer finally came in the winter of 2018: the Vatican would not issue the much-needed authorisation.

Carmelo and Gianluigi had not only presented a great idea but also that touch of solidarity that had always characterised their project and their life. Indeed, the proposal made to the Foundation was to offer it a stake – at no cost – in the future company (through a donation of shares in share capital), with a consequent return in revenue that could be allocated to charity and charitable works. The refusal was due to the fact that the Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation, could not be a shareholder in a corporation.

The key concept: always believe in your dreams

Despite this initial setback, the two future partners did not give up – they believed in the project, believed in the watch and believed in their dream. In November 2019, they made a second attempt with the Holy See. They resubmitted the request, this time accompanied by something tangible: a prototype of the Petrus. Furthermore, the desire to enter into a dialogue of solidarity remained and thus this time around, the two went with a different approach – they would donate part of the proceeds from the sale of the watches to the Foundation.

The immense cog of the Vatican Watch was once again set in motion and in the following months, the project reached the desk of Pope Francis, being the only one who could give final approval. Obviously, once they reached the top and consent was actually given by the person to have inspired the Petrus, there was nothing left to do but, at their request, to travel the reverse route, through all the steps necessary for final approval.  From the Pope, the request for approved returned to the Secretariat of State who, by registered letter, authorised the Foundation to sign the License Agreement for Commercial Use of the two emblems.

A new life begins, a watch starts to take shape

On 22nd January 2020, the final approval came from the Foundation. The project had succeeded in receiving the consents of the Holy See and the Holy Father, who had viewed favourably Carmelo and Gianluigi’s will to reconcile their business activities with the superior value of solidarity.

A turn of the screw that changed everything, because from that moment they were no longer simple dreamers but were now entrepreneurs with a project to be realised. With their objective having been fully achieved, the new-born startup of KEFA began the production of the first Petrus pieces, which were finally released in October of that same year.

In the presence of His Holiness: the lament of the wounded hero

At the end of this story, we cannot fail to mention the event that made the two founders of KEFA most proud – to be summoned to a private audience with Pope Francis to present him with the No. 1 Petrus.

Not in their wildest dreams would they have imagined this moment at the beginning of this adventure. And yet, as it happened, only one of the two partners was able to attend. Yes, only Carmelo was able to be at the thrilling audience with the Pope, because Gianluigi – like a new Icarus who has flown too close to the sun – had to withdraw, having caught that invisible virus that has been lashing the entire world for more than a year. It was Covid that saw Gianluigi stuck at home on what should have been one of the most exciting days of his life.

But, you know, a real hero does not seek glory at all costs. All the more so because what really counted, on the difficult journey with KEFA, was the journey and the consequent growth of the hero.

For this reason, Carmelo and Gianluigi – our modern improvised heroes – have no intention of stopping, well aware that they have already breached the wall that once seemed so insurmountable and that they will be able to reach even greater heights, thanks to their unwavering Faith in their project.