The COPOMIAO delegation greets Pope Francis and meets with Catholic Church leaders in Vatican City on May 11, 2022.
THE PRESIDENT’S REPORT: FROM BASIL M. RUSSO
Turning Vision Into Action:
- COPOMIAO Leaders Forge Diplomatic Partnership With Italian Ambassador in Washington, D.C. (December 2021)
- COPOMIAO Delegation Convenes With Italy’s Political Leaders in Rome to Strengthen Cultural and Commercial Ties (May 2022)
- Delegation Greets Pope Francis and Sits Down With Vatican’s Secretary of State to Reaffirm Our Community’s Religious Commitment (May 2022)
- Planning Under Way for a Groundbreaking National Youth Summit to Reconnect With Our Younger Generations (January 2023, dates TBA)
COPOMIAO, by the Numbers:
- 54 Major Organizations Working as One to Preserve Our Heritage
- Led 3 National Italian American Summit Meetings that Brought 400 IA Organizations to the Table
- 6 National Committees Addressing Issues of Mutual Concern (from public policy and education, to Columbus activism and youth engagement)
WHAT IS COPOMIAO?
The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO) is a collective of leaders from the 54 most important cultural, charitable, educational, fraternal and anti-defamation organizations across the country. We work at the highest levels to preserve and promote our Italian American culture, traditions, values and history. Every two years the presidents of these organizations elect one from among them to, in effect, become the president of the presidents. I, as the ISDA president, was elected to serve as president of COPOMIAO in October 2020.
WHAT HAS BEEN DONE TO ELEVATE COPOMIAO?
The biggest problem that has confronted Italian Americans and their organizations for generations is they never learned how to work together. As a result, our community couldn’t accomplish anything important at the national level because we were unable to amplify or unify our voice. Last year I had COPOMIAO sponsor three National Italian American Summit Meetings that brought hundreds of Italian American organizations together. We formed six national committees so that we could finally begin working together in a spirit of national unity.
WHY WAS IT IMPORTANT FOR COPOMIAO TO CONNECT WITH THE ITALIAN AMBASSADOR?
In addition to never having been able to work together at the national level, Italian Americans have lacked a close relationship with the Italian government. This disconnect has prevented us from working with Italy to jointly promote programs and activities that celebrate our culture. Last fall, I made a request of the Italian Ambassador, Mariangela Zappia, to host a reception at her residence in Washington, D.C. so all the COPOMIAO presidents could meet her and her staff. She did so last December and a strong bond began to develop between COPOMIAO’s leaders and the Italian government.
WHY DID COPOMIAO GO TO ROME?
Because of the successful relationship that came about as a result of the D.C. reception, I believed the next logical step would be to build upon it by taking a delegation of COPOMIAO’s presidents to Rome to meet and establish strong relationships with both Italian government leaders, as well as the leaders of the Catholic Church. We met with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for Italy, as well as members of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, and the Secretary General of the Italian Supreme Court. I explained to all these officials that we Italian Americans are proud of our Italian heritage, and that we wanted to reconnect with the Italian people and their government so we could work with them to promote our collective culture, and to use our newfound relationship to develop strategic alliances that would allow us to strengthen commerce between the U.S. and Italy. This message was very well received by everyone we spoke to.
WHY DID COPOMIAO MEET WITH CHURCH OFFICIALS?
The Catholic Church has been an essential part of our Italian American culture and history. In fact, the Church, more than anything else, has played the most critical role in defining the identity of Italian Americans. So I believed it was most important that COPOMIAO’s leaders reaffirm their faith publicly, and pledge their allegiance to their Church. In addition to being honored with a Papal audience with His Holiness, Pope Francis, our delegation met with the Vatican Secretary of State, and the Prefect for the Ministry of Catholic Education throughout the world. At these meetings we discussed many topics including the difficulties and biases the Church is confronted with today throughout the U.S. as our younger generations become more and more secular. We also discussed many issues relating to Catholic education, including the important role Catholic schools and universities play in helping to maintain world peace.
WHAT DID COPOMIAO ACCOMPLISH?
This trip to Rome was a historic event in the Italian American community. It marked the first time major leaders of the Italian American community had ever traveled to Rome to engage in meaningful discussions with both the leaders of the Italian government, and the leaders of the Catholic Church. The newfound relationships that were established as a result of this trip will greatly assist the Italian American community in our efforts to preserve our beautiful heritage and to celebrate our precious faith.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM COPOMIAO:
COPOMIAO will continue to move forward in a bold and unprecedented manner by hosting the first-ever National Italian American Youth Conference in Florida early next year. Our intent is to bring together a large group of talented, young Italian Americans for an all-expense-paid, three-day conference to encourage them to begin assuming leadership roles in the Italian American community. I firmly believe we must reconnect with, and energize, our younger generations if we are to have any opportunity of preserving our heritage. This project will be a huge and exciting undertaking that will require the help and participation of all of our member organizations. More details will be announced soon.
Is your Italian American organization ready to join the COPOMIAO ranks? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, briefly describe your organization, and we’ll be in touch!
— Honors and Speaking Requests for COPOMIAO President Basil M. Russo —
The excitement and gratitude organizations around the country are feeling over Basil Russo’s 18-month effort to create a spirit of national unity within the Italian American community has resulted in numerous honors and speaking requests for our president.
Some of the organizations honoring our president are: Filitalia International and Foundation’s Hero Award, Lt. Det. Joseph Petrosino Association in America’s Judiciary Award, The Italian American Sports Hall of Fame Man of the Year Award, Featured Speaker at The Connecticut Italian American Bar Association’s Gala Dinner, Featured Speaker at Syracuse Columbus Foundation’s Annual Dinner, Pontelandolfo Heritage Organization Dinner Honoring the National Italian American Bar Association with Basil as Featured Speaker, The San Leone Society’s 100 Year Anniversary Gala Dinner’s Guest Speaker.
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