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Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio

MILAN, Italy (LifeSiteNews) — Scandal-plagued Vatican Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio called for “permanent” discussions between Catholics and Freemasons when he addressed a joint Catholic-Masons conference last week.

The cardinal’s speech, segments of which were reported by Il Messagero, was delivered during a meeting organized in Milan with the head of Italy’s leading Masonic lodge, Grand Orient Grand Master Stefano Bisi, joining Coccopalmerio and Milan Archbishop Mario Delpini.

READ: Cardinal of Vatican orgy fame takes part in ‘historic’ meeting with Italian Freemasons  

“From what I could understand, but I am little expert in this matter, I think there is an evolution in mutual understanding” of relations between Catholics and Masons, Coccopalmerio was reported as stating on March 16. “Fifty years ago, there was less understanding, but things have moved on, and I hope these encounters don’t stop there. I wonder if we cannot think of a permanent table, even at the level of authorities, so that we can better confront each other.”

The event, organized by the Socio-Religious Research and Information Group (GRIS) and called “historic” by Bisi, was closed to the media, reportedly a condition given by Archbishop Delpini to the organizers for him to agree to be present. 

The Catholic Church has consistently and firmly forbidden Catholics from joining the Freemasons, which was restated by the Vatican in recent weeks. Pope Clement XII’s 1739 papal bull, In Eminenti, judged Freemasonry so serious a matter, and membership in it so dangerous, that he imposed an automatic excommunication, latae sententiae, on any Catholic who joined the Freemasons.

Such teaching has remained constant and was the subject of another conference attendee’s talk. Father Zbigniew Suchecki, a professor at the Pontifical Theological Faculty of St. Bonaventure and an expert on Masonry, highlighted the Church’s teaching and condemnation of membership in the Freemasons.

Suchecki is known for consistently noting the incompatibility of Catholicism with Freemasonry. But citing details provided by attendees, La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana reported that though Suckecki gave a “learned report on the Church’s pronouncements against Freemasonry” he was “somewhat snubbed” by Bishop Antonio Stagliano, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Theology and a fellow attendee.

Suchecki told LifeSiteNews that he believed too much time was given to the Freemasons during the event, adding that – in response to LifeSite highlighting Busi’s claim that the Church just misunderstood Masons – the position of the Church remains unchanged.

According to La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana, Stagliano “gave a long speech-show tearing apart the doctrinal approach on the Catholic side and basically going along with the demands of the Freemason exponents.”

Stagliano had been due to expound on the reasons for “irreconcilability between the Catholic Church and the Masons,” but La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana reported that he in fact criticized the Vatican’s November document that reaffirmed the Church’s teaching prohibiting Catholics from joining the Freemasons.

The bishop, reported La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana’s sources from the event, “demonstrated great familiarity with several Masonic exponents” while in the room.

Meanwhile, Grand Master Bisi’s speech, entitled “Freemasonry between Ratzinger and Bergoglio,” recounted how he owed much of his formative life to the influence of the Catholic Church. But Bisi also criticized Pope Francis for not being more open to Masons. 

READ: Abp. Viganò: ‘Fratelli tutti’ means acceptance of everything…except being Catholic

He argued that Francis’ infamous 2013 comment about homosexuals, “who am I to judge,” should have been applied also to Masons: 

Pope Francis made the famous statement ‘Who am I to judge?’ at the beginning of his pontificate addressed to homosexuals, he then opened the doors to the divorced but forgot that among the Masons there are also many Catholics who are prevented from receiving communion and when it came to granting credentials to a Masonic ambassador said ‘no.’

Bisi attested that the Catholic Church was preventing Freemasons’ attempts at “dialogue” or “reconciliation,” expressing his desire for intimate collaboration between the Church and the lodge. 

“My wish – which is also a hope – is that one day a Pope and a Grand Master can meet and make a piece of road together, in the sunlight. I feel like saying in the light of the Great Architect of the universe,” he closed. 

In the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 1981 Declaration Concerning Status of Catholics Becoming Freemasons, the Vatican responded to renewed questions by reaffirming the previous teaching on this prohibition, noting that the excommunication and all penalties remained in place for Catholics looking to become Masons. 

Subsequent texts a few years later – the Declaration on Masonic Associations and Irreconcilability of Christian Faith and Freemasonry – reiterated the Church’s position, noting the “irreconcilability between the principles of Freemasonry and the Catholic faith.”

Before issuing the November text reaffirming the Catholic teaching on Freemasonry, Pope Francis had received praise from Freemasons for his stance on “fraternity” – which was one of the topics highlighted in a 2016 article by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi as an area of mutual discussion between Catholics and Masons.

READ: Freemasons appeal to Pope for support after bishop repeats Church’s condemnation

Fratelli Tutti promotes a “Universal Brotherhood” and also links back to Francis’ controversial 2019 Abu Dhabi document on human fraternity, both of which are widely criticized texts in Catholic circles. A prominently vocal German priest also described Fratelli Tutti as being interwoven with “Masonic” ideology. Francis’ push for religions to be on an equal footing, Father Frank Unterhalt noted, was a key element of Masonic goals.

Indeed, after Fratelli Tutti’s publication, it was welcomed by the Masonic Lodge of Spain, which stated it was “the latest encyclical” of Pope Francis in which he “embraces the Universal Fraternity, the great principle of Modern Freemasonry.”

“Pope Francis’ last encyclical shows how far the current Catholic Church is from its former positions,” the Lodge wrote.