Cradinal Sepe gives the DireNapoli award to John Turturro, director of the film "Passione" at Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimo' of the New York University

Chronicle of the fourth day of Cardinal Sepe's visit to New York (January 19)

(26 January 2011)

10:00 AM

The morning of the fourth day of the Cardinal of Naples' New York visit began with some difficulties. Late because of traffic, the Cardinal's delegation missed the first fairy to Ellis Island, the historic port for millions of immigrants to the US. But when some members of the staff proposed phoning the authorities to hold the fairy, the Cardinal refused, saying “I don't want privileges”.

The brief crossing was pleasant. While the fairy passed by Liberty Island, the Cardinal, chatting with Vice-Secretary Scotti, said that many Italian emigrants thought it was a statue of the Virgin Mary. “They called her 'a maronna!”

Awaiting His Eminence in Ellis Island were Vice-Consul of Newark Andrea Barbaria and New York State Senator Diane Savino (of Italian origin, with a Neapolitan grandfather, and an Apulian grandmother), who immediately broke the ice with a joke: “You came here in a better ship than the one my grandparents came on”.

The delegation then visited the moving Museum of Immigration. The Ranger guide was a true well of information and anecdotes, for example the fact that the official doctors of the time were able to guess the health situation of the immigrants simply by observing how they climbed the stairs. Also the Cardinal proved to be knowledgeable in these matters, surprising the guide himself with the tale of how the first bishop of New York, of Irish origins, died in Naples while waiting for the ship that would have brought him to his new diocese. Buried in Naples, recently the city of New York has been trying to get Italian authorities to allow the remains to be brought here.

Touching moments were the passage in front of the original voyage papers of the time and the visit to the hall with photographs of immigrants, portrayed in all their poverty but also pride.

The visit lasted about one hour and ended in the courtyard of the museum in front of a long series of metal slats engraved with the names of those who passed through the island.

1:30 pm

In spite of the bitter January weather, Cardinal of Naples Crescenzio Sepe's intense schedule allowed also for a visit to Staten Island, one of the five boroughs of New York, the one with the highest proportion of Italian-Americans in the United States.

The event took place in Casa Belvedere – The Italian Cultural Foundation. The building, together with preserving and promoting the appreciation and revaluation of the Italian language, art and culture, aims to celebrate the contribution of the Italian-American communities in the United States.

At Casa Belvedere, His Eminence met with a selected group of Italian-American personalities among which Senator Diane Savino, President of the Conference of Italian-American Legislators of the State of New York, Vincent Gentile, President of the Italian-American Group at the Town Council of the city of New York, Anthony Tamburri, Dean of the Calandra Institute, Joseph Sciame, President of the Conference of the presidents of the main Italian-American associations, and the Reverend Roberto Alfieri in representation of the Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan.

In front of a lit fireplace, a rich buffet and a splendid view of the New York harbor and the Verrazzano Bridge, the local community welcomed the Cardinal with a children choir from the Third Grade of the Notre Dame Academy.

The series of brief welcoming speeches began with Senator Savino, who recalled how Staten Island and the New York Harbor which Casa Belvedere faces were the first thing that Italian immigrants saw from their ships, frequently having departed from the port of Naples. Town Councilor Vincent Gentile offered the Cardinal a flag of the city, on behalf of all the members of the Town Council of Italian origin.

Executive Director of Casa Belvedere, Louis Calvelli, described the Casa as “our initiative of the 21st century for the community”, underlining hos the inclusion of Staten Island and the foundation in this intense 5-day New York visit, demonstrated Cardinal Sepe's sensibility for the different realities of the Italian-American communities of New York.

Finally, Consul General Francesco Talò, making reference to the bridge named after an eminent Italian, Verrazzano, clearly visible from the Casa's windows, spoke about Sepe's visit as an opportunity to build bridges between Naples and New York. The Cardinal echoed his thoughts about twin cities, both places of passion, highs and lows, vitality and hope.

Afterwards the Cardinal took part in a lunch in his honor during which he continued to speak with a large group of local leaders about the significance of this trip. A trans-oceanic visit not only aimed to bring a positive image of Naples on the international stage, but which marks the launching of a special “Jubilee” for the city which coincides with the beginning of the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the Italian unification.

The experience of the Italians that have built this Casa Belvedere – which means Nice View – said Sepe in his speech, contributes in beautifying the face of this city, “and it is an example of how we ourselves in Naples can make an effort to change, make ourselves better and build a nicer society, more just, more calm”.

“This is your richness”, said the Cardinal, quoting the laborious and vital Italian-American collectivity he met during his visits, visibly moved by the warm and familiar atmosphere of welcoming which he shared also with Vice-Secretary Vincenzo Scotti who accompanied him in his trip.

Cardinal Sepe also admired the beautiful “Presepe Napoletano – Nativity of Peace”, the nativity in Nineteenth Century style on view in the main hall of Casa Belvedere. Made by Crèche art Master Ferrigno, the gift of the Campania Region to the Federazione delle Associazioni della Campania USA.

3:30 pm

The last borough reached by Cardinal Sepe in his visit was Brooklyn, with a mass celebrated in the Sant'Attanasio church, reference point of the Catholic Italian-American communities in the Bensonhurst neighborhood.

Brooklyn is the most populated borough of New York, with 2.5 Million residents, and Bensonhurst – with its 20,000 Italian-Americans – is frequently called Brooklyn's Little Italy.

And certainly this area is one of those that kept most the obvious Italian-American characteristics just about everywhere. The stores, for examples, or the spoken language, which although “impure” and with remnants of dialect, makes Italian the second language after English.

In his homily, the Cardinal of Naples underlined how Italian emigrants to the United States brought industriousness, a sense of family, of community, and especially of the religion of their fathers to the new world, which allowed them to find here the same God they had “left” at home. Sepe then invited all the faithful to continue to bear their Italian and Christian identity with pride.

After the mass the Cardinal spoke in public with Mons. Cassato who pridefully defined Brooklynites as the best of New York City, among the general applause. Cardinal Sepe complimented Cassato for the beautiful church: “it feels like Saint Peter in Rome”, he said – and after a pause added “...more or less...” giving proof of his sense of humor and familiarity that made him popular among Italian-Americans of New York, these days.

6:00 pm

At 6:00 pm at Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò, the Department of Italian Studies of New York University, the main subject was Naples and its culture, together with some special witnesses, Italian-American actor/director John Turturro, Professor of Cinema at NYU Antonio Monda and the Director of Casa Italiana Prof. Stefano Albertini, who discussed with Cardinal Sepe about Naples and its representation on film.
On the occasion, John Turturro's latest film, Passione, was presented. Already a success at Cannes and in Italy, it will be released in the United States in June, and it is a true homage to the city of Naples and its human and artistic richness,, especially through the celebration of its musical talent.

Cardinal Sepe, who appreciated the film very much and the way in which it tells Naples, presented his vision of the city and the love that he feels towards it. “In Naples there are different souls on a social, artistic, and even religious level... religiousness of the popular soul has its own particular and unique dimension”, he stated. “The Neapolitan, to give an example, identifies himself with the saint, to whom he always turns in a familiar way, like you would to a relative...”

Sepe continued to speak about another peculiarity of Neapolitans, the spirit of solidarity. “Say there are three families in a building”, was his simple and effective example, “perhaps they don't speak to each other or don't know each other, but if something painful happens to one of them, the other two are present, help, and offer company. Neapolitans feel strongly the need to participate in others' moment of pain”.

This he used to introduce the topic of his voyage, “DireNapoli”: “I came to New York to tell the truth, to tell that Naples isn't only bad, to say that there is hope”, he stated. “E se mi sbaglio mi corriggerai...” he exclaimed causing the applause of the public that recognized the famous pronunciation mistake by John Paul II on the day he was ordained Pope.

“Naples today doesn't only present large pains, but also great excellences in humanities and art, science and culture”. Music and the Neapolitan song, told by Turturro, are one of these excellences. “Music is Naples and Naples is music” said Sepe: “God created Naples and put it on a musical score”. Because of this the Cardinal, after the screening of a few scenes from the film, congratulated himself with the director for succeeding in speaking about Naples in an unconventional manner.

The evening ended with a series of jokes that entertained the public, especially when the Italian-American director promised the Cardinal a Passione 2 sequel, to which His Eminence answered: “Then I'll sing”.

At the end of the event, the Cardinal gave the director a special gift for having “communicated Naples” with originality through his work: a sculpture of the well known Neapolitan artist Lello Esposito of the mask of Pulcinella. Moved, Turturro told the Cardinal how happy he was for his visit to New York to propose a positive image of a city he loves and which fascinates him.