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Francesco Antonio Soddu, bishop of the diocese of Terni-Narni-Amelia, joined Grand Master Stefano Bisi of the Grand Orient of Italy last Tuesday in the ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the GOI lodge in Terni, a city about 102 kilometers (63 miles) from Rome.
Several high-ranking Freemasons also helped inaugurate the new entrance of the three-story building on historic Via Roma di Terni, a road that has undergone extensive renovation with the addition of a second temple.
Instead of appreciating the prelate's presence, Bisi used his inaugural address to humiliate the Catholic Church by calling for the anti-papal event of Sept. 20, 1870, to be immortalized as a national holiday in Italy. Papal rule over the Eternal City ended on that date, when the Italian army bombarded the city walls and entered through a breach in the wall near the Porta Pia.
"Today, as in the past, our goal is always the same — to celebrate all the battles of freedom, starting with the one that in 1870, with the breach of Porta Pia, put an end to the dominion of the Church, favoring the birth of a free and secular Italy," Bisi thundered. "Our final goal is and remains that of universal brotherhood, the realization of a future of peace and cooperation of peoples where all are brothers of all."
A day before the inauguration, the Grand Orient of Italy posted an anti-Catholic tweet marking the end of the Church's "dominion over bodies and minds."
Bishop Soddu, who was appointed bishop of Terni exactly a year ago by Pope Francis, responded to outraged Catholics by defending his participation in the inauguration.
A diocesan press release said the bishop's presence at the masonic lodge was "deliberately misunderstood," leading to "amazement, bewilderment and bitterness."
The statement from the diocese's curia elaborated that the bishop was not identifying himself or the Church "with an ideology different from Christian doctrine," but "instead had the sole purpose of witnessing faithfully to the gospel and to the Church, especially at this time of the Synodal Path that characterizes it."
Catholic journalist Andrea Zambrano fired back, asking the bishop "what he had said that was so faithful to the gospel and to the Church." Zambrano also inquired whether Soddu had mentioned the "over 200 notices of excommunication issued in official pronouncements of popes and bishops against Freemasonry, of every order and rite, over the centuries."
"What the bishop said is impossible to know since neither the GOI website nor that of the diocese have published texts or videos of the bishop while he was speaking" at the Masonic lodge, Zambrano wrote. He wondered whether dialogue with Freemasons was on the agenda of the Pope Francis' Synod on Synodality.
"The bishop of Terni is a successor to the Apostles," Italian historian Roberto de Mattei observed. "The task of the shepherds is to save the souls of their flock, not to lead them to apostasy and perdition."
Pope Francis's actions as a shepherd have been repeatedly lionized by European Freemasons. Two years ago, Italy's biggest Masonic lodge acclaimed Pope Francis' encyclical Fratelli Tutti as being "close to the ideals that have constituted the very foundations of Freemasonry from the very beginning," Church Militant reported.
Titled "A Masonic Value," the cover article in the October 2020 issue of the Grand Orient lodge's journal Erasmus lauded Francis for expressing "apertis verbis" (in explicit words) a "key to universal fraternity" consistent with the doctrine of Freemasonry.
Fratelli Tutti has "many similarities with Masonic principles and vision," the article noted, explaining how "for over 300 years the principle of fraternity has been indelibly written in the Masonic triad," along with "liberty and equality."
The commendation from Italy's biggest lodge followed an endorsement from Spain's main lodge, the Gran Logia de España, which claimed that the encyclical "demonstrates how far away the present Catholic Church is from its former positions," and declared, "In Fratelli Tutti, the pope embraces universal fraternity — the great principle of modern Freemasonry."
Also in 2020, Italy's Grand Orient lodge's journal, Nuovo Hiram, extolled Pope Francis' Abu Dhabi "Human Fraternity" pact with Grand Imam Ahmad al-Tayyeb as "a turning point in civilization because it will open a new era," if applied.
Some hierarchs' continued pandering to Freemasons has scandalized faithful Italian Catholics. They criticized Arezzo Abp. Riccardo Fontana for participating at a 2019 conference marking the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Grand Orient of Italy lodge.
Speaking at the conference, the archbishop stressed that the Church and Freemasonry shared common values of respect, solidarity and dialogue.
In contrast, eight popes have issued 20 legal interdicts condemning Freemasonry. None of the pronouncements has ever been revoked.
Pope Leo XIII, in Humanum Genus, emphasized that "the ultimate and principal aim" of Freemasonry "was to destroy to its very foundations any civil or religious order established throughout Christendom and bring about in its place a new order founded on laws drawn out of the entrails of naturalism."
As prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cdl. Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) stated that "the Church's negative judgment in regard to Masonic association remains unchanged since their principles have always been considered irreconcilable with the doctrine of the Church and therefore membership in them remains forbidden."