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Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Giuseppe Gennarini, a former journalist who has been working since 1975 in the U.S. introducing the “Neo-Catechumenal Way,” an itinerary of faith within the Catholic Church that seeks renewal by working at the grass roots level in thousands of parishes throughout the world. The Neo-Catechumenal Way works to strengthen the relationship between Christian and Jews and to help Catholics rediscover the Jewish roots of their faith. There are an estimated 30,000 such communities throughout the World, with roughly one million and a half members.
Gennarini has recently helped organize a concert at the Lincoln Center titled “The Suffering of the Innocents, A Symphonic Homage and Prayer.” It will be performed on May 6th in the Boston Symphony Hall, on May 8th in Avery Fisher Hall-Lincoln Center in New York City and on May 14 in Chicago Orchestra Hall. The will be also a performance in a Synagogue in Teaneck with a scaled down version of the concert to give opportunity to other Jewish people to attend. For more information on all of these performances and how to attend, click here.
The Symphony was composed by Kiko Argüello, the initiator of the Neo-Catechumenal Way, as homage to all innocent victims and especially those of the Shoah. It is not only a beautiful musical performance, but also an event of meditation and friendship between Jews and Christians. It was performed for the first time in January of last year in the Vatican before Pope Benedict XVI, then in Galilee, Paris, Madrid, Düsseldorf and finally, in December of last year, in Jerusalem, at the Gerard Bechar Theater. It is now coming to New York, Chicago and Boston and being welcomed with enthusiasm by many Cardinals, Bishops, Rabbis and prominent leaders in the Jewish world.
FP: Giuseppe Gennarini, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Let us begin with why Neo-Catechumenal Way is offering this symphony in homage to the Jewish people. What exactly does Kiko Argüello hope to achieve in this musical work?
Gennarini: Thanks Jamie.
Rediscovering that the roots of our faith are in the people of Israel gives us a profound gratitude towards them. Carmen Hernandez, who initiated the Neo-Catechumenal Way together with Kiko, lived four years in Israel, working and visiting the Holy places. There, she acquired a profound knowledge of the Jewish festivals and traditions, transmitting to all of us the love of the Jewish roots. We are grateful to the Jews for everything we have received from them: the Holy Scriptures, the Fathers, the Prophets, the tradition, the roots of our feasts and liturgies, Jesus, the Apostles, Paul, Mary, etc… Because of that, Pope Benedict XVI said that Jews are “our fathers in faith” (avoteynu ba’emunah).
So the only reason we have for offering this Symphony is our love of the Jewish people and the conviction that the union of spirit and love between Catholics and Jews is fundamental to face the new challenges of secularization. According to the Jewish-Catholic tradition, there is no love without communion in suffering. We would like to show our love for the Jewish people, recognizing the suffering of the innocents and especially the tragedy of the Holocaust. We would like to say through this opus: “We do not turn our back to the people of Israel and to their sufferings in history.”
FP: Kindly expand a bit on the significance of the theme of the “Suffering of the Innocents” in today’s society. Share with us the Christian view of the suffering of innocents.
Gennarini: The theme of the symphony reflects Argüello’s experience in the shantytown of Madrid, Spain, in the 1960’s where, after leaving everything behind, he went to live amongst the poorest of the poor. In the midst of all these shattered people living in shacks, Argüello contemplated the suffering of many due to the sins of others: homeless people lying in the streets dying of cold, children in horrible orphanages where they suffer violence, people abandoned because of their illness. In approaching these people, Kiko saw in the innocent victims a carrying of the sin of many, as the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, that in their mystery shines the presence of God. It is written, in the Jewish sources, that a good Jew must remain standing at the presence of a man struck with illness, because in him dwells the Shekhinah. Approaching these suffering innocents, he realized the magnitude of the tragedy that the Jewish people experienced in the Holocaust.
FP: What response has the symphony received before other audiences, especially in Israel?
Gennarini: We organized in Galilee and in Jerusalem two symphonies for a Jewish audience and in both occasions more than 700 people, several rabbis and civil authorities, were present. The response was marvelous and moving. I would answer your question by echoing the words of Rabbi David Rosen (Chief Rabbinate of Israel Honorary Advisor on Interfaith Relations, AJC, Israel). After hearing the symphony in Jerusalem, he stated:
“This concert represents a revolution in the relationship between those of the Christian Faith and the people of Israel; an acknowledgement that there are essential differences which separate us in faith – and yet all considered, there are very important elements which unite us. Kiko Argüello and the Way are committed to preserving the identity of the people of Israel, and I’m grateful to have taken part in this historical movement to foster the relationship between Christians and Jews.”
FP: Have you had help from the Jewish community in the US in organizing this event? Who is endorsing this event?
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