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?
Gennarini: We were surprised by the welcoming received from the Jewish community and the amazing help from the Rabbis. The list of people endorsing the event is remarkable. Among them are:
Cardinal Timothy Dolan;
Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley;
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick;
Cardinal James F. Stafford;
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn (Archbishop of Vienna);
Arch. William F. Murphy;
Rabbi David Rosen;
Rabbi Arthur Schneier;
Rabbi Joseph Potasnik;
Rabbi Yitz Greenberg;
Rabbi Jay Rosenbaum;
Rabbi Eric J. Greenberg;
Rabbi Bob Kaplan;
Rabbi Noam Marans;
Rabbi Richard Marker;
Rabbi Marc Schneier.
Also the following presidents of the most important Jewish world organizations have supported the event:
Mr. Abraham H. Foxman, (ADL);
Mr. David A. Harris (AJC);
Ambassador Ronald S. Lauder (WJC).
FP: Tell us some more about the composer of the symphony, Kiko Argüello.
Gennarini: Francisco (Kiko) José Gómez de Argüello Wirtz was born in Leon, Spain on January 9, 1939. He studied Fine Arts in the Academy of S. Fernando of Madrid receiving the title of Professor of Painting and Design. In 1959 he received the Extraordinary National Prize for Painting. After a deep existential crisis, a serious conversion happened inside of him, which brought him to dedicate his life to Jesus Christ and to the Church. Convinced that Christ was present in the suffering of the Last Ones of the earth, in 1964 he went to live amongst the poorest, moving into a shanty made out of wood in Palomeras Altas, in the suburbs of Madrid.
Later, Kiko met Carmen Hernandez and from their collaboration originated the Neocatechumenal Way as an itinerary of Christian formation lived in small Christian communities. Kiko Argüello, Carmen Hernandez and the Italian priest Rev. Mario Pezzi, are today responsible at the international level for the Neocatechumenal Way, which is present in 120 nations on 5 continents.
In this way the songbook “Resucitó” appeared, with more than 300 songs for the liturgy that today are sung in all languages in the Churches of the world. He is also author of many artistic and architectural works; among them: seven great frescos in the Cathedral Apse of the Cathedral of Madrid and, in Israel, on top of the Mount of the Beatitudes, the International Center “Domus Galilaeae” which is visited each year by hundreds of thousands of Jews.
The Domus Galilee was inaugurated by Pope John Paul II during his historic visit to Israel in the year 2000. He sent a personal letter to the Domus Galilee expressing the desire that it would become “a center for initiatives aimed at establishing a more fruitful dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Jewish world.”
FP: Who will be performing the Symphony? What will the symphony entail in terms of musicians and chorus singers, etc?
Gennarini: The orchestra and choir of the Neo-Catechumenal Way, conducted by Pau Jorquera, features 100 musicians and 80 chorus singers, from Spain and Italy. All of them are professional musicians, who belong to the Neo-Catechumenal Way and they will play for free. And they are happy to do it!
FP: Who is paying for the event?
Gennarini: We are really seeing the Providence of God because day by day he has been helping through the most unexpected venues. A brother from Chicago made a contribution to help bring the message of the symphony around the States and also other brothers and sisters did the same. Everything has been provided pro bono: a lawyer helped with the contract, people offered hospitality.
FP: Final words?
Gennarini: Come and see! The performance will take place on Tuesday, May 8th at Avery Fisher Hall-Lincoln Center in New York at 8:00 p.m. Admission to the performance is free but requires a ticketed reservation available by calling 201-998-9469 or emailing [email protected]. For more information, click here.
FP: Giuseppe Gennarini, thank you very much for joining Frontpage Interview. We wish you the best and encourage all of our readers to make it to “The Suffering of the Innocents.” And we are very grateful to everyone that has made it possible.
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