VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – The Vatican has confirmed a ban on Catholics converting to Freemasonry, a centuries-old secret society long viewed with hostility by the Catholic Church whose global membership is estimated at up to six million.
“Active membership in Freemasonry by any member of the faithful is prohibited, due to the lack of reconciliation between the Catholic faith and Freemasonry,” the Vatican’s doctrinal office said in a letter published by Vatican media on Wednesday.
The department, known as the Department for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued its opinion on November 13 and signed by Pope Francis, in response to a bishop from the Philippines who expressed alarm at the growing number of Freemasons in his country.
The same office said last week that transgender people can be baptized, serve as godparents, and serve as witnesses at Catholic weddings.
The letter on the Freemasons cited a 1983 declaration, signed by the late Pope Benedict
Masonic lodges are usually male-only societies, and are associated with mysterious symbols and rituals. They have also sometimes been linked to conspiracy theories alleging undue influence on world affairs.
According to the United Grand Lodge of England, modern Freemasonry “is one of the oldest social and charitable organizations in the world,” and is rooted in the traditions of medieval masons.
The group says it has 180,000 male members, in addition to two parallel lodges for women in England that include 5,000 other members, and global Freemasonry membership is estimated at about six million.
It lists Queen Elizabeth’s late husband Prince Philip, former Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the late actor Peter Sellers, former England football coach Alf Ramsay, and authors Rudyard Kipling and Arthur Conan Doyle as famous Freemasons from the past.
Reporting by Elvis Armellini, Editing by Nick Macfie
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