ROME, Italy — It was a historic week in Rome and within Vatican City as a delegation of Italian American leaders met with government officials and Pope Francis to advance cultural and religious initiatives — and to set the stage for new economic opportunities — between the U.S. and Italy.

The delegation, assembled by Judge Basil M. Russo — who leads The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO) — conducted a panel discussion with Italian Supreme Court justices, and sat down with the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, to pinpoint issues of mutual concern.

“Our Catholic faith is such an intricate and essential part of our heritage that it deserves newfound focus and attention,” said Russo.

The landmark visit to the “Eternal City” is a first-of-its-kind event and one of many new summits that are designed to preserve and promote Italian American history, traditions, institutions, and financial and cultural connectivity to Italy.

“In the last 18 months alone, COPOMIAO has unified hundreds of Italian American organizations to preserve and revive the culture our ancestors brought with them from Italy,” said Russo. “Now we’re forming strategic partnerships and alliances throughout Italia to bring our journey full-circle.”

Meanwhile, discussions are underway with The White House, Italian American politicians, various museum officials and top educators to promote public policy, advocacy initiatives, and the Italian language in the U.S.

Additionally, COPOMIAO will sponsor an Italian American youth summit in Florida next year to energize the younger generations around our heritage.

Stay tuned: More updates from the historic Rome summit will be sent out later this month.

The delegation included: 

Basil M. Russo, a retired judge who serves as President of COPOMIAO, as well as National President of the Italian Sons and Daughters of America.

Joan Prezioso, Chairperson of the Board of the Italian Welfare League, the oldest and largest Italian American charitable organization.

Frances Donnarumma, National President of the Italian American Bar Association, which represents all Italian American judges and lawyers.

Anthony Ficarri, President of the Italian American War Veterans of the United States, representing all Italian American military veterans.

Berardo Paradiso, President of the Italian American Committee on Education that provides teacher instruction and funding and allows for 75,000 US high school students to study the Italian language.

Gabriele Delmonico, President and Executive Director of A Chance in Life, an international charitable organization founded in Italy that serves needy youth.

Charles Marsala, President of the Italian American Federation of the Southeast, representing 22 Italian American organizations.

Marianna Gatto, Executive Director and cofounder of the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles.

Robert DiBiase, Chair of the New Jersey Italian Heritage Commission.

Richard DiLiberto, President of the Delaware Commission on Italian Heritage and Culture.

Ron Onesti, President of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans, representing 30 Italian American organizations in Chicago.

Tom Damigella, Board Member representing the Italian American Alliance of the New England states.

Joseph Rosalina, National Executive Vice President of the Italian Sons and Daughters of America.

Kathleen Strozza, Trustee of the UNICO Foundation, the largest Italian American service organization.

Anthony Gianfrancesco, Past President of the Italian American Bar Association.

Patricia Russo, Executive Editor of La Nostra Voce, the fastest growing Italian American newspaper.

Cav. Gilda Rorro, Chair, New Jersey School Curriculum Development Committee.

Umberto Mucci, Founder and Editor of We the Italians, a major social media Italian and Italian American news magazine.

Paul Pirrotta, President of the Canicattinese Society.

Giampaolo Girardi and Marco Di Fazi, Ordine Avvocati di Roma Board Members.

Additional guests: Loyse Paradiso, Faith DiLiberto, Roberta DiBiase, Rita Damigella, Beatrice Delmonico, Maryann Ficarri, Geraldine Caggiano, Hercules Paskalis, Joseph Rosalina, Jr., and Dr. Mary Rorro.


Formed in 1975 and based in New York City, The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO) is comprised of 54 of the most influential cultural, educational, fraternal and anti-defamation groups in the nation.