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Raffaele Marzullo, left, and Montclair Mayor Robert Jackson at the sister-city signing earlier this year. COURTESY OF MONTCLAIR TOWNSHIP

By LINDA MOSS
moss@montclairlocal.news

Montclair officials and the township’s Italian-American community this Thursday will welcome a delegation from the municipality’s sister city Aquilonia, Italy.

The meet-and-greet will be held at 5 p.m. at the Municipal Council Chambers, 205 Claremont Ave.

The Township Council officially recognized Aquilonia as a sister city in January of this year, “acknowledging the significant role played by Italian Americans in the community,” according to a press release from the township Monday.

In June a delegation of Montclair officials, including Mayor Robert Jackson, visited Aquilonia.

While in the United States, the Italian delegation will visit various popular sites in and around Montclair, according to the township. The visitors from Aquilonia will also march in the New York City Columbus Day parade on Monday, Oct. 9.

The itinerary includes local stops at Corso 98, Halycon, Eagle Rock Reservation, the Montclair Art Museum, Montclair State University and its Yogi Berra Museum and the outlet shops in Secaucus, as well as trips to New York City to see the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Empire State Building and Times Square.

Delegation members will also participate in a procession on Sunday to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church with the Montclair Police Honor Guard, the Knights of Columbus Honor Guard and Hillside Elementary School’s Drums of Thunder.

Delegation members will also participate in a procession on Sunday to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church with the Montclair Police Honor Guard, the Knights of Columbus Honor Guard and Montclair’s own Drums of Thunder, from Hillside School.

Thursday’s event will include Jackson and the council, Montclair resident and Aquilonia Sister City organizer Raffaele Marzullo, township directors and community members.

“We want people to come to town hall to greet them,” Marzullo said.

Marzullo and local officials said that township funds are not being used to host the Italian delegation, who will be staying in a hotel in the Meadowlands. The Italians are paying for their own airline tickets, and there has been fundraising by the township’s sister-city committee to offset the cost of the visit.

At Tuesday’s council conference meeting Jackson criticized the media, accusing it of being ”offensive” and “bigoted,” for asking who was footing the bill for the Italian delegation’s trip to America. A Montclair Local reporter had asked Jackson the question prior to the council meeting. 

“We have been sending people to Graz, to Barnet, to Cherepovets, all over the place for decades, and to knowledge, to my recollection, I never anybody asking how is it being paid for,” Jackson said at the meeting.

“I know the media’s here. I think the media’s obsession with it is equally offensive because again, quite frankly,” he said.

“Why is it we have an Italian-American city and now all of a sudden everybody wants to know who’s paying for it. And I think it never came up before. And I think it’s bigoted, and I think it’s straight-up offensive. … We have a silly issue of who’s paying for some people to come over. And by the way, when we went over there, there was nothing from their citizens saying who’s paying for what.”

The visiting Aquilonia contingent includes: Vito Maglione, town councilor; Mirco Annunziata, Aquilonia council member; Raffaele Michele Gala, president, Aquilonia Sister City Committee; Fausto Gala, welcoming committee member; Vito Antonio Ramundo, welcoming committee member; Walter Capone, journalist and welcoming committee member; Maria Donna Capone; and Fabio Diego Lotrecchiano, Aquilonia Sister City Committee member.

Marzullo, originally from Aquilonia, led the sister-city effort with fellow parishioners from Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. And he organized the Montclair delegation’s visit to Aquilonia earlier this year.