Thanks to Daniela Battezzato, Leonardo Diciolla, and Sal Velluto for the information.

Puglia Stake Created

Southern Italy's first stake was organized in Bari on March 9, 1997 with Giancarlo Di Carolo (Foggia) as President, Michele Modugno (Bari) as First Counselor, and Vincenzo Castaldo (Taranto) as Second Counselor. Elder Uchtdorf, a member of the Seventy and President of the West European Area, presided at the "spiritually charged" meeting attended by more than 800 saints from the former Puglia District.

The palo di Puglia comprises at least five wards: Bari Poggiofranco (Bari Ovest), Bari Liberta' (Bari Est), Foggia, Taranto 1 and Taranto 2. Other units in the Stake remain branches.

Vincenzo Conforte will serve as stake patriarch. Fratello Gallone was sustained as Stake Mission President, and Anna Valentini was called as Stake Relief Society President. Additionally, a number of brethren have been ordained High Priests: Virgilio; Fasano; Paoletti; Del Vecchio; Santoro; Curci; Cassano; Bellomo; Petroni; Pappagallo; Mazzolari; Carnevale; Palma; Fiorillo B.; Di Carolo; Modugno; Castaldo.

Here's more on the subject from Carolyn Bennett Ugolini:

We had Elder Raimondo Castellani, new member of the Third Quorum of the Seventy, and his wife as our house guest last Sunday [April 6, 1997]. One thing that he said about the creation of the Puglia Stake that really touched me, was how hard a goal it was to reach in Puglia, and how hard the members (and missionaries) have worked to reach this goal. Nearly 250 strong, active members have left the region and are serving as leaders in other areas.

Elder Castellani said it was a miracle that a stake was created there and a compliment to the spiritual strength of the leaders and members. Examples of those who have left: Massimo (and Loredana) De Feo from Taranto. He is district president in Rome (after a few years in Milan). Another example: Riccardo Maldarizzi (and Anna, also from Taranto) who is serving as bishop in Brescia.

Note: Of course the members mentioned above and many others who have moved outside the Puglia also had important roles in the creation of the Puglia Stake, and undoubtedly they rejoice in this accomplishment wherever they currently live. Their contribution deserves to be recognized along with the labors of those who remain in the region.