I recently received an interesting message from Daniel Lifschitz, a prolific artist and Jewish convert to Catholicism and an early itinerant catechist for “the Way”. He sent me a draft of a chapter of his soon to be published book, which is a goldmine of information about the early days of the sect.
Daniel converted to the Catholic faith from Judaism in 1966 and joined “the Way” in 1973. Friends with Stefano and Giuseppe Gennarini prior to joining, he quickly became an itinerant catechist for the movement and served in that capacity in at least eight countries, including Italy (Sicily), Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Switzerland, Ethiopia and the United States (Texas and Chicago).
The title of the chapter that Daniel sent to me is “Il mio vissuto con Kiko” (“My Experience with Kiko”), and includes a fascinating letter that Daniel wrote to Kiko in 2014:
I’m writing today to tell you some things I’m deeply convinced:
You have received from the Lord, especially through Mary, wonderful gifts, real and many charisms.
You have hoarded them, I hope in good faith, and you’ve built a movement and a monument to your glory and image.
“Your” Way is now encapsulated in a Kiko-cage. Let, if it is not too late, the birds take flight.
If you do not seek a remedy, opening the cage in the few years that remain for us (now we walk quickly towards the eighties), the Way, at your death, will crumble.
The bishops do not want more, and threaten to abandon you, your Super-Catechists quarrel between them and the Pope … is already watching you from afar, as Psalm 138:6 says: “… the Lord looks at the haughty from afar”.
The faith that the Word of God through your preaching, has aroused or increased in many people – even in me and to you I am grateful – will remain. But all the adulation to yourself and of yourself will crumble into nothing.
Now, dear Kiko, I tell you, rather I write, because I love you:
“Turn to Jesus!” You risk sending many people to heaven as you slowly slide into hell. Stop, while you can!
Greetings to Carmen. I know she is very ill. Tell her, if anything, when you open this letter, that I pray for her. I also pray for you and I beg you to pray for me and my family,
Your brother in Christ,
As you can see, Daniel is brutally honest with Kiko, although he’s much kinder than I could ever be.
In his letter, Daniel suggests that Kiko veered into narcissism over the years, but anecdotes from the book and from Daniel’s autobiography show that Kiko’s self-absorption, megalomania, and penchant for secrecy were present from the beginning of the movement. Consider these examples:
From the upcoming book:
One day, perhaps in the mid-80s, Kiko told me during a Convivence: “We must begin to bring the brothers of the community to love painting. I want to organize an exhibition in Rome “. He settled a date, and I, wholly “gassed” by the honor, shown me by my catechist. Returning to Palermo, I prepared for the exhibit, helped by a brother of my community, who paid for the advertising and printing of lithographs needed for trip to Rome.
The phone rings: It was my catechist Mattia del Prete: he impatiently told me: “I call you for Kiko … you know, he has rethought the exhibition. It cannot be done, because it would arouse the envy of many painters in Rome who follow the Way. I’m sorry.”
Obviously there I was feeling very bad. Why had not he [Kiko] called me in person? But I swallowed the toad, sure that what was decreed by Kiko was the for highest good for the Way.
…Three year later, perhaps, Kiko returned to the idea….Kiko phoned me: “I want to organize an exhibition at the seminary, open to all the brothers in Rome.” We set a date, and I went back to work to gather all the paintings with a Jewish theme available. After a few days, I embarked, accompanied by my daughter Mirjam with my family Volvo, from Palermo to Naples. In the morning we arrived at the “Redemptoris Mater”. There waiting Mattia del Prete, the architectural factotum of Kiko, and began to mount the exhibition.
Kiko arrives at 1:00 pm – for once completely “humble and contrite”. He called me aside and told me in a low voice: “Unfortunately you cannot do the exhibition.” I do not remember the new justification…
These two “picturesque” interludes speak for themselves: Kiko is psychologically and spiritually incapable of any kind of confrontation with others. This, let’s call it “disease”, is the reason that wherever is in his power, that is in the community, in the liturgy, in the seminaries Redemptoris Mater etc., he must leave, as the dogs with their pee mark their territory, his footprint.
From Daniel’s autobiography, “L’immondizia Ama Dio” (“The Garbage Loves God”):
The cult of personality surrounding Kiko and his art and music:
In order to conduct our celebrations, the Liturgy of the Hours and the Eucharist, we had to carry all the necessary things hidden in suitcases and we had to rent an extra room, transforming it into a chapel. For Neocatechumens it is not about a few things: the Bible with the lining of Kiko, the icon of Our Lady of Kiko, the Cross in style in style of Kiko, the paschal candle with a pattern of Kiko, the Cup and paten designed Kiko, the hymnal of Kiko, the cover lectern designed by Kiko, carpets, guitar, tambourine and vestments designed by Kiko. P. 74
The secret catechism:
Father Elia constantly wondered how we prepared our catechesis. He suspected that there had to be, underneath it all, a help text, but, seeing us always speak off the cuff, could not understand from where we took all this “wisdom” and unity of purpose. We text we had, and they were the catechesis of Kiko and Carmen, bound in a handout. It had been strongly recommended to never show them to anyone.
One evening, while Father Elia made numerous visits to his parishioners were preparing tomorrow’s catechesis in his living room and, after the reading – we knew already by heart and for me had become a great boredom – I hid my mamotreto under the pillow of a sofa. The next morning, at breakfast, Father Elia met us all perky with a grin in his mouth and holding the “Gospel according to Kiko and Carmen”: “Here, where you pull out your gab! Now I know who you are: you are all parrots! “. He had a point. P. 72