Italian Freemasons have said they will appeal to Pope Francis for support, after the local Catholic bishop re-iterated the Catholic Church’s condemnation on Freemasonry in light of renewed Masonic activity in the area.
Local Freemasons in the Archdiocese of Chieti-Vasto in eastern Italy have declared that they will seek “rapid and active intervention” from Pope Francis, after Archbishop Bruno Forte reminded the archdiocese of the Catholic Church’s strict ban on participating in Masonic activities.
On February 7, Forte issued a letter to his archdiocese in which he presented the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s (CDF) 1983 document on Masonry.
Forte stated that: “the condemnation of Freemasonry remains unchanged; second, Catholics who belong to a lodge are in a state of grave sin and cannot take communion; third, no exceptions are allowed.”
His letter was prompted by renewed, public activities organized by Masons of the Sovereign Arabian Phoenix lodge in Forte’s archdiocese, including a conference at the Iacone hotel on “Francesco d’Assisi: mysticism or esotericism?”
Many locals protested the conference, calling the Masons “absolute evil.” The venerable master Ginevra Di Nicola stated that the protests represented “social hatred.” Di Nicola added that the Masons would “invite Bruno Forte to our next meeting.”
“We are not a religious creed but we believe in a superior being whom we call the ‘great architect of the universe’ who created everything,” said Di Nicola. “We are a brotherhood that embraces every religious belief.”
Days later, Forte – who has led the archdiocese since 2004 – issued his letter which consisted chiefly of the text of the CDF’s 1983 document. That text – signed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and approved by Pope John Paul II – reads:
Therefore, the Church’s negative judgment regarding Masonic associations remains unchanged, since their principles have always been considered irreconcilable with Church doctrine and therefore membership in them remains forbidden. The faithful who belong to Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and cannot access Holy Communion.
The CDF’s ruling further adds that local bishops cannot issue documents which in some way differ from the firm line presented by the CDF regarding the Catholic Church’s relationship with Masonry. “It is not for local ecclesiastical authorities to pronounce on the nature of Masonic associations with a judgment that implies derogation from the above, and this is in line with the Declaration of this Holy Congregation of February 17, 1981.”
In response, the Masonic lodge declared that they would appeal to Pope Francis to intercede on their behalf against Forte. “We will turn to Pope Francis to ask for his swift and proactive intervention in this diatribe, which damages our honorability and, on balance, threatens our security,” Di Nicola told local news.
The Mason also directly quoted from Pope Francis’ 2020 encyclical Fratelli Tutti, citing paragraph 46: “It must be recognized that fanaticisms that lead to the destruction of others also have religious people as protagonists, not excluding Christians, who may participate in networks of verbal violence.”
Such a tactic is noteworthy: Francis’ Fratelli Tutti promotes a “Universal Brotherhood” and also links back to his controversial 2019 Abu Dhabi document on Human Fraternity. Both texts have been widely criticized by Catholics since their publication. Former Papal Nuncio to the U.S. Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò notably wrote that Francis’s concept of fraternity was “theologically blasphemous.”
A prominently vocal German priest also described the text as being interwoven with “Masonic” ideology. Francis’s push for religions to be on an equal footing, Father Frank Unterhalt noted was a key element of Masonic goals:
The striving for universal ecumenism of religions has always been a concern of Freemasonry on the way to its actual goal, namely to bring about the breakthrough of that self-constructed religion in which all human beings are supposedly in agreement.
Indeed, following Fratelli Tutti’s publication, it was welcomed by the Masonic Lodge of Spain, who stated it was “the latest encyclical” of Pope Francis in which he “embraces the Universal Fraternity, the great principle of Modern Freemasonry.”