Cardinal Sepe and the other panelists at the conference on "Human Migrations of the Third Millennium" (Graduate Center of the City University of New York)

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

(26 January 2011)

A day dedicated to reflecting about migrations.

9-10 am

Another important event for Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe of Naples in New York: the visit of His Eminence at the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute of the City University of New York (CUNY). The visit is taking place following the invitation of its Dean, Prof. Anthony Julian Tamburri. Afterwards, Prof. Tamburri and his guests will move close by to the Graduate Center of CUNY where they will take part in a round table entitled: “Human migrations in the third millennium”.

The Calandra Institute is the most important university institute of this kind in the United States, a center of research and cultural meetings regarding historical, social and political topics in relations to Italians and Italian-Americans. The multimedia magazine i-Italy, press service for the Cardinal's visit, has its headquarters within the institution.

Cardinal Sepe was accompanied by the Moderator of the Church of Naples Mons. Gennaro Matino, Vice-Secretary of Foreign Affairs Hon. Vincenzo Scotti and Consul General Francesco Maria Talò. After visiting the Calandra offices and the headquarters of i-Italy, the Cardinal and the other guests spent time in Tamburri's office, speaking about the subjects that would later be addressed during the round table.

They talked about emigration, about how Italian emigrants themselves suffered discriminations when entering the United States. And about how the Italian language itself was abandoned by many emigrants, especially after the beginning of World War II, when American authorities launched a strong “Americanization” campaign towards emigrants, inviting them to “not speak the enemy's language”.

Prof. Tamburri reminded of the importance of Naples in the history of Italian emigration, both for the number of Neapolitans that left in the course of over a century, and as the main port for many southern emigrants.

Another topic was the work of universities of Naples and New York and the necessity of acting in a concrete way towards the equivalence of university titles, fundamental element in allowing a “circulation of brains” that doesn't end up in an “escape” or “abandonment”.

After the brief encounter, both the Cardinal and Vice-Secretary Scotti expressed the wish of creating in Naples a center of emigration studies, attached to the experience of the Calandra Institute in New York. All were in agreement in supporting the geographic convention of a same parallel uniting Naples and New York, not only as a reflection of the cultural friendship between the two cities (also in reference to the cinematic festival 41 Parallelo, in which the Cardinal will participate tomorrow), but also in the history of human flows, in arriving and departing, the link the two cities.

10-12:30 am

The Cardinal stated that “Naples is the capital of the Mediterranean” and expressed the desire of creating a center of emigration in Naples in conjunction with the Calandra in New York, since, after all, the two cities “share the same parallel”.

The second stop of the morning in Cardinal Sepe's journey was the Graduate Center of the City University of New York for the announced round table about “Human Migrations in the Third Millennium” and the challenges that Italy must face while transforming from a country of emigration to a country of immigration. What lessons can Italy learn today from the American experience – the land of immigration par excellence – and especially for its own history of emigration to the United States?

After a salute by Consul General Francesco Maria Talò, Prof. Anthony Tamburri, Dean of the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute of CUNY, introduced the works. His talk was centered around the projection and commentary of a series of photographs and old commercial prints and vignettes published by American newspapers between the late 1800s and the mid-1900s in which the immigrants of then were depicted, including Italians. Prof. Tamburri underlined the xenophobic violence, almost racist, with which the figure of immigrants was dehumanized through these representations. “I wanted to give you only an idea of the way in which Italians were welcomed” he concluded, mentioning the similar difficulties that immigrant face today in Italy.

The Cardinal of Naples spoke next, and underlined the contradiction of today's globalization, where the circulation of goods and money is favored, while the circulation of people conjures deep fears and is frequently opposed. Sepe underlined the importance of accepting and quoted John Paul II, inviting everyone to “reflect on the them of dialogue between cultures”, considered as the “obligatory journey for building a world at peace, able to serenely look at its future”. “The right path is dialogue between different cultures to bring down barriers” he remarked, while underlining the great effort by the Church, and especially the Church of Naples. “Every country, every city which, like Naples, has witnessed consistent phenomena of migratory flows both inwards and outwards, cannot close foreigners out, generating conflicts. Integration is and must become a resource”, said the Cardinal, recalling that the principle of welcoming is a fundamental value because the Lord said: “I was a foreigner and you hosted me”.

Vice-Secretary of Foreign Affairs Vincenzo Scotti spoke about the importance of Italian emigration around the world, tens of millions of people that represent a value for having contributed, with heart and brain, to the development of new cultures. Agreeing with the Cardinal about the importance of dialogue to defeat prejudices that emerge in Italy today towards immigrants, Hon. Scotti underlined that the accent must be placed on “existential dialogue” more than on intellectual one, because the process of accepting happens not that much among nations, but “among neighbors”. The invitation is therefore to accept the pluralistic complexity, the cultural contamination of our hybrid societies as an “existential journey around everyone's identity”. At stake, for Italy and the Italians, is spiritual, social and economic growth, which can only happen by accepting one another.

Father Leonir, Executive Director of the Scalabrini International Migration Network, noticed how the phenomenon of human migrations is taking over more and more the top of the international agenda and now requires with insistence the attention of all the States. The movement of people are more intense, today, diversified and complex in respect to the previous eras. In a globalized era, in which demographic growth, social-economic diversity, and climate change represent huge challenges that strike against migratory flows, nation-states cannot make it on their own: concentrated efforts from governments and organizations of civil society, including the Catholic Church, are necessary both on a global and regional level.

Fred Gardaphè, Professor of Italian and Italian-American Studies at Queens College, spoke about ethnic-racial intolerance, underlining that Italian immigrants weren't only victims, but also perpetrators. “I remember when I was a child, in Chicago, my mom would tell me that blacks smelled bad... and more than once, when I was together with black children, I tried to smell them to see if it was true... but I never smelled anything!”. Only when people know each other we learn to accept the “other”, we abandon prejudices, concluded the professor. “And this is what scholars of historic, cultural and social phenomena of migrations try to do: allow others to be known to others”.
Prof. Viscusi, director of the Wolfe Institute at Brooklyn College, underlined that descendants of Italian immigrants, who were treated as “almost black” in the early decades – there were even episodes of lynching among Italian immigrants, especially in southern United States at the end of the 1800s – having “become white” they refused that “shameful” past. And today many refuse to know more about that poor Italy that pushed their ancestors to emigrate, and they frequently refuse to remember the experience of their own families. Behind this phenomenon of repression of the past, there is also a “class” element, he added: many ex-immigrants that have managed to conquer a position in the middle class, want to eliminate the memory of a “working class” past, of a culture of origin tied to manual labor, humble. This behavior is a great obstacle to the full maturing of Italians of America as “an social and ethnic group”.

The round table ended with Cardinal Sepe's wish of transforming more and more the famous Hobbes phrase “homo homini lupus” in “homo homini frater”, committing to always considering more the “other”, the “different”, as a brother and not as an enemy.


The afternoon of the Cardinal of Naples continued in Mott Street, in one of the most ancient churches of New York, St. Patrick's Old Cathedral. Built in the early 1800s, the church was ordained a Basilica by Pope Benedict XVI last December, and is the only church in the Archdiocese of New York of that rank. In spite of the bitter cold the church was full of representatives of the main ethnic communities of the neighborhood, Chinese and Italian.

After the singing of the Vespri, led by Cardinal Sepe and priest Donald Sakano, of Asiatic-Italian origin, the Cardinal was offered a presentation of the activities that the church runs in the neighborhood. Mister Vittorio Papa, President of the Two Bridges association, dedicated to the promotion of inter-cultural dialogue between Italians and Chinese, remembered how the two communities have co-existed in harmony for the last hundred years.

He was echoed by Justin Yu, President of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association that underlined how beyond healthy differences, Italian-Americans and Chinese-Americans share respect for tradition, values, culture and love for “Chinese noodles”. Cardinal Sepe then attended a representation of the “Marco Polo Day”, the local feast which celebrated the co-existence of the two communities. Before leaving the Basilica His Eminence co-celebrated Mass in the crypt, together with Father Sakano and other priests of different ethnic origins.


Lunch in the Neapolitan pizzeria Kestè
A true Neapolitan pizza for lunch. Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, accompanied by Consul General Francesco Maria Talò and by his old friend Vincenzo Scotti, Vice-Secretary of Foreign Affairs, ate at the Neapolitan pizzeria Kestè, a popular venue, run by Rosario Procino and pizza-maker Roberto Caporuscio.

After an appetizer with mozzarella (made in the pizzeria itself) and Prosciutto di Parma, several different pizzas were brought out for a tasting. Great creativity but also an undoubtedly Neapolitan taste.

“This is an example of the great entrepreneurial sense that Neapolitans have abroad. A Neapolitan pizzeria in the best tradition which gives work to non-Neapolitans as well”, remarked the Cardinal.

The pizzeria Kestè, in Manhattan's Greenwich Village has become almost a cult venue in very little time, for those who love the real Neapolitan pizza. Many Americans have become closer to the world of the city that gave birth to pizza. Many positive reviews from American newspapers, that together with pizza as a food, have discovered the 'culture' of the pizza.

Present on the Cardinal's table, of course, was the Pope's Pizza. “It was first made – explained Roberto, the pizza-maker – on the Pizzaiuolo Jubilee of 2000, on request by Pope John Paul II. It has the colors of the Vatican flag: pumpkin and ricotta cheese, smoked mozzarella, red and yellow peppers and artichokes.” In the menu also the Margherita, the Mast' Nicola, the historical pizza considered the most ancient, made with pecorino cheese, basil and lard.

And after two Neapolitan classics, the Capricciosa and Vesuvio, with stracciatella of Andria, finally a babà and a true Neapolitan cake.

Among Rosario's plans for the future, creating exchanges for young kids between Naples and New York to learn to work in the restaurant business by putting together the Neapolitan tradition and the American organization.

Both Vice-Secretary Scotti and Cardinal Sepe agreed upon the importance of small activities like Kestè's, to be repeated around the world to spread creativity, tradition, but also Neapolitan entrepreneurship.

An evening visit to the eno-gastronomic center Eataly
Welcomed at the Fifth Avenue entrance by Nicola Farinetti and Lidia Bastianich, Cardinal Sepe visited Eataly, the eno-gastronomical mega-store in New York which has become in very little time one of the most important meeting points of good Italian cuisine in the United States. Nicola, son of Oscar Farinetti, the creator and founder of what is by now a chain which began in Turin, told the Cardinal the history of the Manhattan store, of how it was born (last fall) thanks to an intelligent synergy with two important names of Italian cuisine in New York: Lidia Bastianich and Mario Batali.

Cardinal Sepe visited several stands, tasting specialties made and sold in the store, and he also appreciated the mozzarella prepared by Eataly according to Neapolitan techniques and procedures. He was visibly struck by the atmosphere and the spirit present in the store. For example, the bread, which is made on location with American flour ground by stone, similarly to Italy, and 30-year-old Italian yeast, in a Spanish oven, baked by a Romanian baker.

Lidia Bastianich told about her love relationship to Naples, for its artistic beauties but especially for its cuisine and product. She also reminded Cardinal Sepe that she cooked for Pope Benedict XVI when he came to the United States. Of Northern Italian origins, she tried to interpret the tastes of a Pontiff from Germany.

In a cordial atmosphere of great understanding, the Cardinal manifested the idea of opening an Eataly also in the city of Naples, perhaps for the “Neapolitan Jubilee” which he called this year. Nicola Farinetti confessed that Naples was among their objectives from the start of the Eataly project, but that up until now they hadn't found the right interlocutors. “We come from Turin”, he said, “and every time we open a new store far from our reality we try to find interlocutors that know where we are going, to adapt our model to the location”.

Farinetti therefore was enthusiastic about Cardinal Sepe's intention and said that although it is almost impossible to open a store in time for the present Jubilee, perhaps during the year it would be possible to find the conditions to make it come together.

The visit concluded with a toast for hope for Naples. Ti open a new reality that would bring new ideas and create jobs.