Grand Master, Grande Oriente d’Italia
Dear Brethren, Ladies and Gentlemen, dear guests,
My greetings to you all, and everyone of you, coming from Italy and abroad. A great hug, to all people wishing to be “Free to Know”, and to all people wishing to be “Free to Know us”, and to live Freemasonry without any prejudices, for some days. You all are welcome to this Annual Communication in Rimini.
I want to make a special dedication to a child: Edo. He is 14 years old, lives in Prato. He is autistic. His contact with the world is a tandem bike, no: it was a tandem bike, a special bike. Was… because his bike has been stolen, in the same day dedicated to autism. His father Umberto has made an appeal to the thieves: “Bring back Edo his bike”. We count on their good heart, but do not worry, Edoardo: we will give you a new tandem bike. You will find many bad people, but also many trying to be good. We want to try to be good. Thank you Edoardo, for the gift you are giving to us.
We have chosen to name our Meeting “Free to Know”, with the image of Galileo Galilei’s telescope. We believe that this is a beautiful metaphor, to talk about an ancient institution, which from three hundred years is transmitting the principles of Liberty, Equality, and Brotherhood, and an inspiration: Freedom – that even today, not all men possess in its many forms.
As long as a man thinks he is free. Freedom of thinking is the most important good for a man; it is the most important thing to cultivate, for us Freemasons. It is the first stone, the first brick, to become free men, and to build our way to knowledge.
That knowledge which is freedom, and that freedom which is at the same time knowledge. It is not a play on words but a reflection that must make us think and introduce ourselves in the vastness of the chosen theme and make us think about the immensity of these two words, freedom and knowledge, which constitute two real columns for us initiated and for man contemporary struggling with a series of epochal changes.
We Masons are convinced that starting from the inner evolution of each of us – through a deep and hard work that leads us first to the necessary and necessary knowledge of ourselves – we can extract from the deepest and unfathomable human cavern the most precious stones that each one we have inside. And so, once pulled out, use them wisely to build and transform the whole of humanity into a new and better world in which to be truly free to think, to grow, to be able to choose, to act, to dream, to love others and ourselves.
By nature and inclination we are immediately free men to know. Entering this Communion we die to profanity, to all that we have done previously in social life and we start again towards a new life made of intense spirituality, of continuous and heavy work on ourselves to rough up what we call raw stone. Thus we free ourselves of materiality, of the many, too many egos, and without certainties, between a doubt, a painful stumbling block and a courageous ascent, we advance on our journey that offers us the opportunity to discover new horizons and new planets in our soul, in our mind and heart, by opening the tips of the compass.
Like Galileo Galilei, who challenged the Holy Inquisition, we also ideally hold in his hands that beautiful telescope depicted as a symbol of this Annual Communication and we use it to look at the star-studded sky we have in our temples and to freely explore our mother earth from East to West. That magnificent cylinder with lenses made us and makes us look very far in the centuries and even today. He made us dream, he took away some doubts and gave us new and fascinating reasons for research.
Because life and the journey of man is and must be stimulated by a continuous research, without it, our life would be incredibly flat and full of preconceived dogmas and reality.
We do not want any dogmas and prejudices. This is why with one extraordinary test of courage we have decided one day to become free masons, strong and endless links of a chain of universal union that cannot be subject to rupture or broken by iniquitous denigrators or by the persecutors of our Great Work .
Three hundred years of history and the many companies signed by the Masons to improve the world, to ensure democracy and progress, are our best and indestructible “Magna Charta” in which our marvelous DNA and our incomparable aims are clearly marked.
Of course, somewhere in the world, in Venezuela for example, and also in Italy, for some years, there is someone who wants to brand and make life difficult. They have made it clear that Freemasonry must be subdued in any way. They do it because they are afraid of us, of our ethical role in the Society that is recognized by those who see us in our activities, the founding values of the Italian Republic, like the President of Umbria, Katiuscia Marini, said. To this undemocratic way of acting and postulating ineffable and more and more often wrong theorems we are opposed and we will oppose pending the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights on the seizure of the lists, a sentence on which we trust the principle defense of freedom of association that we will always pursue.
May the people who are denigrating us to use the same ability to think and act in the right way, like we are doing. Like we made – for example – last March 1st, when we opened our Temples and thousands people visited us, all over Italy. We want to be free to exist, and to say what we are doing for the humanity. Freedom, and free thinking cannot be caged, nor the freedom of association. Fascism did it and we all know how it ended. It began with Freemasonry but soon freedom ended for everyone. Some would like to do it again today, trying to resurrect those horrendous and shameful laws of a very dark period for Italian history and democracy. They will not succeed. Freemasonry which has strong roots and whose seed continues to sprout flourishing for the beauty of its universal work is not afraid of having to fight once again to defend its existence and continue to be a great and radiant light for Humanity.
We are the antidote, the true and powerful antibody against so many evils of today’s society and of the world. We are the antidote to the mafia. Our way of acting and thinking is the opposite of that of organized crime.
Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood are high principles, without color, without race, an anachronistic term that must now be deleted from the Constitution of the Italian Republic and which I hope we will also cancel tomorrow from the Constitution of Grand Orient of Italy. These are values that no one can question and think about eliminating them. We are on the side of life senator Liliana Segre, deported as a child in a concentration camp, who wants to remove the word race from the Constitution. For her, maiden, the doors of the schools were closed and today those of the Senate were opened. Happy, we Masons, that she can sit in those offices of Palazzo Giustiniani that belonged to the Grand Orient of Italy and that fascism took us by force and the Republic does not want to give us back, even minimally. But the game is not over and we hope that the new president of the Senate Maria Elisabetta Alberti Casellati, to whom we address a respectful wish for good work, wants to put an end to the looting of Palazzo Giustiniani. And from Rimini, a strong, fraternal, affectionate hug to the last external warden of our Temple, in Palazzo Giustiniani, Mario Sacconi. A few days ago he lost his beloved and inseparable wife. Mario, a great hug to you.
And in that building, very dear to us, the life senator Liliana Segre will bring the voice of freedom and the voice of her companions in misfortune. Also Nedo Fiano’s voice, he too interned in Auschwitz. To this man we send an affectionate, deferential greeting. I met him ten years ago in Siena, at the Accademia Chigiana, and in that hall, where the notes of the greatest musicians in the world resound, he spoke of his life as a deportee. His cry “Never again, never again” sounded loud and clear. I’ll never forget it. I cannot forget it.
We Masons are and we want to be free to participate. Freedom is participation. As Giorgio Gaber used to sing. “Because freedom is not above a tree, nor is it the flight of a fly. Freedom is not a free space, freedom is participation”.
Also Freemasonry is freedom and participation.
We are and we want to be free to express our ideas, our multiple visions of the world. We are and we want to be free to fight and even to get angry because, while making ours the principle of tolerance that distinguishes us, we too are men in flesh and blood with our passions and our weaknesses that must be balanced so that virtues prevail. But the call we make to us we would like it to be valid for others too.
We are and we want to be free to dream of a better Italy and a better world for us and for those who come after us. We are free to adhere to any project that may be necessary and appropriate for the nation to grow. And it is certainly not excluding without any valid reason the Masons from the lists of candidates for elections that make a good policy and the interests of Italy. We believe that every citizen – and the free mason is a citizen like any other – has the right and the duty to participate in public life and to contribute to institutional positions without defamatory labels and absurd prejudices. Prejudices that you are free to have. Go ahead. Consider us crazy. But “only those who are so crazy to believe they change the world really change it,” said Baden Powell. Also laugh at the thought that in the evening we put on the apron and the white gloves, which we light the candles, that we do “strange signs” with hands and arms. Do you want to intern us? Do you want to slaughter us? Do you want to kill us? And then, when you have killed us … we will be reborn. You will not stop us. Our glorious banner is always there. It is wet with tears, sweat and blood but we did not have to change the name to keep up with the times. Our values are immortal. Those of our detractors … I do not know.
And then, we are also “starred”. We even have more stars than everyone. Those above us in our temples are like those in the universe. The chicks of the Norcia team remind us of this: “No monster can disunite us because when the sun sets, the stars are lit”. Under the clouds there are always stars to show us a path. And we freemasons have an even more demanding task in front of our conscience. For each of us, politics represents a search for human and social justice, dialogue, tolerance, rights for the benefit of not just a few but all citizens. Let us not attack the common good, as the Secretary of the Episcopal Conference Monsignor Galantino accuses us. We want the common good. We are not for the good of a few but we want the good of all, of all men.
And Arnaud Beltrame, our French brother, knew that he was taken hostage by a terrorist to save a woman’s life. He is dead, but the message of his action will not die. He gave his life, his life, because in the temple he had learned to consider the possibility that one day he could be called to shed his blood for a just cause. And saving the lives of others, for a free mason, is a just cause. Yet, for some, in Italy, Arnaud could not have been a candidate in parliament. And he could not prove his heroism, because for some, in Italy, he could not have been a policeman. Laws, laws, want to revive liberticidal laws. And then, with all our vigor we cry three times to another voice: Honor, brother Arnaud. Honor brother Arnaud. Honor Brother Arnaud.
The history of universal Brotherhood and the Grand Orient of Italy tells us about the sacrifice of many men, who ended up in confinement like the great master Domizio Torrigiani, or slaughtered, like Giovanni Becciolini, because he did not want to give the list of Florentine brothers to the squads. History tells us about men committed to solving the great problems of the modern community. Many were our brothers. And the history of this Nation is also made by local administrators, free masons, who have worked for the good of their cities and are still remembered today for what they have done. And I do not think only of Ernesto Nathan, mayor of Rome, but also Aldo Ducci in Arezzo, Lando Conti in Florence, Guido Monina in Ancona, Canzio Vannini in Siena. And it is here among us, as a venerable master, Mario Valentini, mayor of Perugia in the early nineties. Defends with all his strength the right to belong to the Grand Orient of Italy in the city council. “The Mason does not tremble” says his brother Mario, in chorus with another beloved mayor of Perugia, Giorgio Casoli.
We Masons must and we want to be free to join, to support, to share the choices and the routes necessary to improve and revive the beloved homeland. But at the same time we want to preserve our inner freedom, which is even more beautiful because it is suffered, conquered, obtained through sweat and sacrifice. The freedom to build the inner temple in the secret of one’s inner self. We are like a football team: at the end of the first half only the coach and the players enter the locker room. In the secret of the dressing room they get ready, they take their strength, they load up. Then they go on the field. Fans will applaud or whistle. For freemen the temple is our dressing room, humanity is our sporting field. Judge us, if you want, for what we do in the world. Continue to have prejudices, if you really want to, but remember that men, every man, and therefore also a free mason, cannot give up asking the existential questions in the secret of their intimacy. Know yourself, first of all.
The freedom that comes from knowledge is the freedom to not know, to have no certainties. Stephen Hawking, the scientist who invited us to look at the stars and not our feet, always hoped he would not confirm the scientific results just to try and find out again.
The more you know and the more you realize you do not know. And this leads us to want to know more, but also to the necessary criticism of every preconceived truth. The most dangerous enemy of knowledge is not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge. And there are too many deluded knowledge about it.
Feel free to disagree with us, with our rituality, with our way of being, but you can close your mouth. We are free and without scold’s bridle Our task is “to bring together what is scattered” and not to divide how, unfortunately, they have been doing so many others for a long time. And this Italy too is and must be one and only one. The North, the South are only conventions. They are cardinal points and nothing more. I believe that the many brothers who died, shedding their blood to unite Italy, turn in their grave at the thought that there may be several Italy. That was not what they fought for in the Risorgimento. And, I think, it was the same thing for the many Masons who helped build the Republic. For us Italy remains one and indivisible and there cannot be one part more in the light and the other in the darkness. A richer and more disadvantaged. Too many inequalities have been created.
After months of polemics, of many clashes and few arguments, I think the time has come, and here I turn to those who care about the nation, that we are interested in it with only one goal: that of wanting the good of Italy and its citizens.
The unique interest is to enhance the culture, enhance the best and make the world know the many beauties of art and landscape, the immense heritage that this nation has, so that they can give jobs, employment. No one should be left behind and nobody deserves to be deluded.
We must make Culture a right. Culture is starting again by investing in school, a real asset: to restore dignity to teachers and to support students. A school that educates on responsibility, that leaves no one behind and develops the talents of each one and makes the student grow. A school of ideas and new resources. We of the Grand Orient of Italy have wanted to reward – as we do in many areas of the peninsula – the students of the earthquake zones of Marche and Umbria. In Macerata and Norcia we have distributed over 100 scholarships just to encourage these youngsters who have studied in areas at risk and with fear. They studied as buildings and streets collapsed, while friends and family died. But the argument goes further, because the Freemasonry of the Grand Orient of Italy knows very well that if you do not do something to remove the school from torpor and give it momentum and impulse, everything will be useless. A nation that does not produce intelligence and incentives is dead. So to the boys but also to the teachers I say, paraphrasing a sentence by Antonio Gramsci: “Instruct yourself, because we will need all our intelligence. Be agitated, because we will need all our enthusiasm. Get organized, because we will need all of our strength”. Do not stop in front of obstacles, do not let the future steal. We are here. Perhaps we are only a flame that illuminates a small space but we are there. Even a match, in the darkness of the night, illuminates more than the sun.
Do culture and be free to know. Culture is progress, intellectual, social, economic, scientific, legal development. And culture, intelligence will help us to intervene for the integration of those who come from afar to escape war or hunger does not matter. A warm and sensitive issue that affects the consciences of Europe and cannot be just an Italian problem. Here, too, we need an attitude that knows how to reconcile the reception with the capacity and the possibilities to welcome. The Mediterranean Sea cannot make us smell the dead but the smell of salt, the soft sound of the waves, the warmth of the sun.
The work to be done is still long, aware that the migratory waves will never stop – it is the destiny of the world – and we must deal with these. But let’s try to break down the walls, those that are in our hearts, that divide us from those who are different from us.
I also think about what is to be done in the field of civil and human rights. A work that will not end and we know what the incomplete wall inside the temples means. Just as we know that we must never let down our guard to defend the idea of freedom and the principle of tolerance. We do not forget the words of Voltaire: “Willing and acting are precisely the same thing as being free … It is very certain that there are men freer than others, for the same reason that we are not all equally intelligent and robust. Freedom is the health of the soul; few possess it whole and unalterable “.
The freedom to be free depends on us, on our behavior, on our will. Dear Brethren and fellow travelers, we continue to work and navigate freely and confidently towards the horizon. We continue to follow the initiation path incessantly as we have promised. We are looking for our Ithaca with a conscious beauty, as the Greek poet Costantino Kavafis wrote with sublime words.
Listen to what he said:
“Always you must have Ithaca in your mind – to reach it, will be your constant thought. Above all, do not rush the journey; let it last for a long time, for years, and as an old man set foot on the island, you, rich of the treasures accumulated on the street without expecting riches from Ithaca. Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage, without her never you would have put on the road: what else do you expect? And if you find it poor, not for this, Ithaca will have to disappoint you. Now you are wise, with all your experience, you will have understood what Ithaca wants to mean “.
The “beautiful voyage” is the initiatory one that we have all decided to do, which hundreds have decided to undertake in the last few months, when the furious aggression that was done to us could discourage this step. And our Ithaca is also ideally the island of Freemasonry. If we make all the necessary efforts, it will ultimately reward us with its treasures. AlsoI have a dream, like Martin Luther King had. With the compass, looking at the stars and with Galileo’s telescope, perhaps one fine day will make all its extraordinary beauty appear and the doubts will dissipate. And we will be tired, tired but happy, finally free to know the Truth, which will always be the penultimate. And the journey will continue. Also against wind, if necessary. But it will continue under the banner of a word that we pronounce today and always with courage, with pride, with determination, with love: freedom, freedom, freedom!
Thank you all, and long live Grande Oriente d’Italia.
(speech delivered on the occasion of the Annual Communication of Grande Oriente d’Italia – Rimini, April 2018)