February 10th, at the Quirinale Presidential Palace, with Italian President Napolitano present, the ceremony for the commemoration of the Day of Remembrance took place.
Among those present were the Vice President of the Senate, Milziade Caprili; the Vice President of the Chamber of Deputies, Giorgia Meloni; the Vice President of the Council of Ministers and the Minister of Culture, Francesco Rutelli; the Defence Minister, Arturo Parisi; Constitutional Judge, Paolo Maddalena; the Vice President of the Federation of the Associations of Istrian, Fiumani and Dalmatian Exiles, Lucio Toth; the President of the Commission for the examination of the concessions of recognition for the foibe victims’ surviving family members, Alberto Ficuciello; as well as other members of the government and of Parliament, and family members of Foibe victims.
Minister Rutelli had, previously in the day ,awarded commemorative medals and citations to the foibe victims’ families. During the ceremony itself Minister Rutelli and Lucio Toth spoke. President Napolitano also spoke, and his speech was followed by a concert entitled “Homage to the Day of Remembrance”.
This is the second year that I have presided over the ceremony for the Day of Remembrance. Last year I clearly stated my thoughts. And certain negative reactions to my speech – outside Italy – did not shake my conviction that it was right for me, in the name of our Republic, to have expressed my opinion using those meanings and sense of purpose that, I am glad to say, I heard in Minister Rutelli’s speech here today. Today, therefore, I shall add only some brief considerations, as I greet with heartfelt sentiment those of you who have just received solemn recognitions, albeit late in coming, and all of those who are here today, representing the odyssey of suffering for which the Day of Remembrance has been dedicated.
I feel that the time has come for us to ask ourselves, in the deepest sense, the significance of this Day, which we have strongly and justly refused to have cancelled from our collective memory. Honoring the victims of those tragedies, along with recognizing the injustices suffered, and the suffering of the survivors and their descendents who were forced into exile, cannot and must not be taken out of the context of a comprehensive vision — as Mr. Toth so eloquently elaborated in his speech – a serene and unilateral vision of that tormented, tragic period of history, marked by opposing totalitarianisms. We need to take heed of that plague called extreme nationalism, of the total lack of respect for the rights of “others”, of the exaggerated exaltation of one’s own ethnic or historical identity, which plunged our continent into a barbarian state of war.
Today, the wounds left from those troubled times have been healed in a Europe which is peaceful, united and dynamic; a Europe aware that the elements which unite it are infinitely stronger than those which divided it in the past, or could divide it now: a Europe which, thanks to a culture of peace and civil cohabitation, has been able to prosper as no other region in the world. And yet, this stable Europe has witnessed the Balkan States, a vital part of its history and identity, become the scene of bloody conflict just a few short years ago, situations that have torn apart States, communities, families, in a dark return to the horrors of the past.
Let this, then, be the warning for us, on the Day of Remembrance. If unity will not prevail in the face of discord, if dialogue will not prevail in the face of prejudice, then nothing of what we have worked so hard to achieve can be considered permanent. In such a situation, the memory of the victims we honor today, and their sacrifices, would be the first to be damaged. Let us show, then, in concrete ways, that those Italian honoured here today are not forgotten, and that the pain of many has not been in vain. Let us show that we have learned the lesson of history, and that we desire to contribute to the development of ties of fully reciprocal comprehension, and fruitful collaboration with nations and people who have entered, or desire to enter, the great family of United Europe.
The President of the Republic of Italy