Cardinal Sepe and Rabbi Schneier at the Scuola d'Italia. The conversation was moderated by Maurizio Molinari, correspondent of 'La Stampa'.

Chronicle of the fifth day of Cardinal Sepe's visit to New York (January 21)

(30 January 2011)

Public debate at the Scuola d'Italia with Rabbi Arthur Schneier and visit to the New York see of the sisters of Mother Therese of Calcutta in the Bronx.


9:30 am
DEBATE ON “NAPLES AND NEW YORK: HARBORS OF DIALOGUE”, WITH CARDINAL SEPE AND RABBI SCHNEIER AT THE SCUOLA D'ITALIA 'G. MARCONI. OF NEW YORK. THE EVENT TOOK PLACE IN FRONT OF ABOUT ONE HUNDRED YOUNG STUDENTS AND WAS DEDICATED TO INTERCULTURAL AND INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE.

This morning the Cardinal of Naples Crescenzio Sepe visited the Scuola d'Italia Guglielmo Marconi, a bilingual Elementary/Junior High/High School in New York. He met the students and faced Rabbi Schneier of Park East Synagogue on the topic of interreligious and intercultural dialogue. Maurizio Molinari, correspondent of La Stampa, moderated. The debate, entitled “New York and Naples: harbors of dialogue” is the first event of the “Week of Memory” organized by the Consulate General of Italy to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust.

The debate was preceded by the reading of selections from Stella Levi's memoirs, member of the Board of Directors of the Primo Levi Center of New York and present at the event, taken from Il Libro della Shoah in Italia, edited by Marcello Pezzetti. They were read by actors Robert Zuckerman and Antoinette La Vecchia together with two students of the Scuola d'Italia.

Italian Consul General, Francesco Maria Talò, taking the podium after the recital, commented “it is difficult to start talking again after such a descent to Hell”. And he added, in reference to the event organized every year by the Consulate on Remembrence Day, that also this year, on January 27, personalities of the Catholic and Jewish worlds will read the names of the deported Italian Jews in front of the Consulate building. He also reminded the importance of the participation of the younger generations, the new bearers of this crucial memory.

The first question, for Sepe and Schneier, both witnesses of the Holocaust, the former having survived the Shoah in the Budapest ghetto, the latter as a young seminarian in a building hiding Jews, had to do with memory. “I was present at a Nazi book burning, and then at the burning of my family” said Schneier. “We must learn from this tragedy; we must keep its memory alive”. Sepe echoed that “it is of key importance to keep alive the attention towards education of the new generations to avoid that a similar hell may take place again”. Sepe and Schneier ended by agreeing that freedom and democracy are the most effective antidote against such mass follies.

Sepe added that it seems that “in Naples there has never been a persecution law against the Jews”, and also announced the intention of organizing a panel in Naples to confirm it. And in relation to this he invited the Rabbi to take part in it.

At the end of the morning, Cardinal Sepe gave Rabbi Schneier a Neapolitan miniature presepe that was on view at the Italian Cultura Institute until a few days earlier, as part of the exhibit “Nativity in the World”, strongly wanted by the Curia of Naples.

12:00 pm
VISIT AT THE NEW YORK SEE OF THE SISTERS OF NOTHER THERESE OF CALCUTTA.

Unpredicted stop but ideal conclusion for Cardinal Sepe's New York trip, a visit to the convent of missionary nuns of Mother Therese of Calcutta in the Bronx.

The Cardinal, who met Mother Therese many times, during his international trips, felt strongly about visiting the New York sisters. During the past days, however, the tight schedule hadn't allowed any time for this. But a few hours away from his departure, the Cardinal managed to go visit them himself.

The small mission lies in a common area of the Bronx, almost insignificant, among a number of small run down buildings, the perfect location for devotees of Mother Therese. The modest interiors are infused with spirituality and communicate a serenity of the spirit difficult to describe.

Cardinal Sepe, visibly moved, prayed with the nunes and celebrated Holy Mass before leaving for the airport.