Past Grand Master of Grand Lodge of Cyprus
Very good afternoon, my dear Andreas, and many thanks for being here with us, and talking about Freemasonry. I am honored to have you here and I’d like to, for the very first time, introduce our audience to the Masonic life in Cyprus. A short history: how many Lodges, if there are Lodges in other languages, what Appendant Bodies you have and so on.
Dear Brother Claudiu, first of all I have to say that it is also an honor for me to give this interview to the Masonic Forum and I would like also to congratulate you regarding your work.
In Cyprus we have at least one lodge in every district of the country and currently we have only Greek and English speaking lodges. In the past we had one Italian and one German speaking lodge. Totally we now have eleven active lodges with about five hundred members, noting that dual membership within our Grand Lodge is not permitted. It is also our policy that the membership is exclusive to the residents of Cyprus but, however, an exception is that we examine applications from membership, provided they fulfill some conditions. The Grand Lodge of Cyprus is working in amity with all the other Masonic Bodies which are activated in the island, such as The Supreme Council, with which we have a signed concordat since 2006. Also with the permission of GL of Cyprus, which is the sovereign Masonic body in the Island, other Masonic bodies that are activated are the American type of York Rite, which includes Royal Arch, Cryptic, Knight Templars. We also have the Order of the Red Cross of Constantine, the Order of the Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests, and recently we have approved and given our consent for the formation of the first chapter of the DeMolay Organization.
We are very careful and we are exercising extreme caution and care regarding the safeguarding and independence of the Grand Lodge from any other Masonic body that operates in Cyprus. For this reason, none of the members of the Council of the Grand Lodge of Cyprus are allowed to be at the same time a Grand Officer in any affiliate Masonic body which operates in Cyprus. When I was elected GM, I resigned from all my positions that I enjoyed as a Grand Officer in other Masonic bodies either in Cyprus or abroad. So this is a brief outline of what we have in Cyprus today.
Now, regarding the history and the evolution of Freemasonry and the Grand Lodge in Cyprus, always during my discussions – when I have this type of discussions – I like to say that the evolution of Freemasonry in Cyprus is divided into three major periods which are following, somehow, three major historic events in the history of Cyprus.
The first period is the period from 1878 to 1960, a period which is marked by the fact that the island was occupied by the United Kingdom. Following the agreement between Turkey – because Cyprus was under the Ottoman Empire – and the UK, Cyprus moved from the Ottoman Empire occupation and went under the occupation of the United Kingdom and became a Crown Colony. This happened in 1878. Very soon, 5-10 years, I think, in 1888, the UGLE created its first lodge under its jurisdiction in the island, in order mostly to accommodate the Brothers who moved in the island with the purpose to establish the new governments. Happily, a number of locals joined them and saw the Masonic light in that first lodge, and very soon they needed to give the light and share the principles and morals of Freemasonry to the local, non-English speaking population, and created the urge and the need to establish more lodges, but in the Greek language. That was a time when the UGLE approved and gave its consent to the Grand Lodge of Greece to create its first lodge in the island. But the new lodges were working under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Greece. This happened I think in 1895. So, since that date, UGLE shared the jurisdiction in the island with the GL of Greece. The two Grand Lodges continued sharing the Masonic jurisdiction in Cyprus until the consecration of the GL of Cyprus. So that was the first period of time during which Freemasonry came and established here.
The second period of time is a short period, a 14-year period, from 1960 to 1974. Now, 1960 is a powerful date for Cyprus, because Cyprus became an independent country, fully accepted as a member of the UN and afterwards as a member of the EU and Euro zone as well. So, during this period of time, Freemasonry in the island was expanding with the assistance of both Grand Lodges and new lodges were established. It is remarkable to mention here that the Greek-Cypriot Freemasons were in most cases the majority of the founding members of the new English lodges, which were under the jurisdiction of the UGLE. And most of them are still keeping their membership active today. So, as a whole, about this period, despite some obvious and well-known problems regarding the acceptability of Freemasonry in the island, that has small, local societies, I can say that in this period Freemasonry was thriving. So the second period is marked by the expansion and excellent cooperation between the two Grand Lodges.
The third period, now, starts in 1974 until today. During this period of time we had in the island major events that are still affecting the life of Freemasonry here. Firstly, it was the invasion by Turkey in 1974 and the occupation of the northern part of the island. Then it had a direct negative impact on Cypriot Masonic life. We had great numbers of our Brothers expelled from their houses, being part of the population forced to move in the southern part. At the same time, the lodges that were operating in the north part of the island suspended their operations temporarily.
The second not historical, but Masonic, event was the creation, in 1980, of the District Grand Lodge of England, under the jurisdiction of UGLE. The District Grand Lodge of England has lodges under its control all over the southern part of the island and has as its members mostly British people who live in Cyprus, but also some Greek and Turkish Brothers who live in the north part or the south part are members of the District. Is worth mentioning here that no official Masonic work is allowed by the District in the northern, occupied area of Cyprus. The most important event of the third period of Freemasonry, which happened in 2005, when the majority of the members of the Greek speaking lodges in Cyprus, working under the auspices of the Grand Lodge of Greece, decided to set aside their emotional feelings regarding Greece, for obvious reasons, and requested from their mother Grand Lodge to assist them in order to create a Grand Lodge in the island. This eventually happened in 2006, when three Grand Lodges – the Grand Lodge of Austria, the GL of Pennsylvania and the GL of Greece – sent their Grand Masters here and through them Grand Lodge of Cyprus was consecrated. This happened in 2006. Cyprus is represented now by its own sovereign Grand Lodge, the Grand Lodge of Cyprus AF&AM. Our GL is in amity with and recognized today by more than 150 Grand Lodges all over the world.
At this point I would like to confess that I am a strong supporter and believer in the idea of having no more than one sovereign Grand Lodge in every country, especially in the small ones. I emphasize the small countries because – although we are aware [that may not be the case in] the UK, the US, Brazil – in general the international Masonic family has a duty to discourage the creation of more than one GL in small countries or the division of the jurisdiction of any existent sovereign GL. We’ve known for years now that each division creates problems that take years and years to be solved. Although the GL of Cyprus is the recognized sovereign Masonic body of Cyprus, we do not have Masonic control in the north part of the island due to the current political situation.
The District Grand Lodge of Cyprus and the UGLE have tried solving the problem by having members from that side on condition that everybody is working on the south part of the island, here.
At the same time, the Grand Lodge of Turkey has created and operated three lodges under its jurisdiction in north Cyprus, with Turkish-Cypriots as members. Since the Grand Lodge of Turkey and the Grand Lodge of Cyprus are not recognized by each other, no visitation is allowed with the Brothers in the northern part of the island, and at the same time, although UGLE and Turkey recognize each other, again, inter-visitation is prohibited from these lodges, especially from these lodges, which are working in the north part of the island.
Dear Brother, I think that I said and I elaborated a few things about the situation, but I think the problem here seems a little bit complicated but, at the same time, I think it’s very simple and crystal-clear. At this point I feel that I need to confess to you once again my dream for the Masonic future in Cyprus. We, the Cypriot Freemasons, irrespective of our ethnicity, we can live and work together in brotherly love, abiding the Masonic values and principles under one umbrella: the Grand Lodge of Cyprus. Where there is will, there is a way. And I’m very sure that one day we can find the way to satisfy all parts involved. This is my dream. One Grand Lodge for the whole of Cyprus and everybody working there. Anyway, I apologize for the lengthy presentation and I am at your disposal for further questions.
Now we know the real situation of Freemasonry in Cyprus! Thank you very much indeed, Andreas. What are the relations of Freemasonry in Cyprus with the authority of the State?
We don’t face any kind of problems, with the authorities. On the contrary, following various social events and fund-raising activities during the last years I have a strong feeling that we are now accepted better than in the past and are considered a living cell of the local communities and the society. For example, for the first time, our charity work was mentioned by His Excellency, the President of Cyprus, who expressed his gratitude regarding our recent donation to the Ministry of Health. This was done in writing and, to be honest, I was very, very happy when I received his letter.
And the relationship between the Freemasonry in Cyprus with the Church?
Here we try to keep the balance. Although in the past we faced some negative attitude, nowadays I could say we are not facing serious problems. Of course, this is the result, again, of our continuous efforts to be present in the society through charity events and by making everybody understand who we are and what our principles are. Apart from that, most of our members are very religious persons and I think that the clergy understand that we are not a religion and that we are all – or at least the majority of us – religious persons. So we don’t have any serious conflict between the Church and us nowadays. In the past – yes, but today – no.
From your international Masonic experience I am sure you have noticed differences between Eastern and Western European Freemasonry, between South and North America. What kind of Freemasonry do you think is closer to what Freemasonry should be?
It’s true that after I became Grand Master and had the opportunity to travel a lot and attend Masonic meetings almost in every part of the world, except the Far East, what I have noticed is that in every continent, in every different geographical areas the difference lies mainly in the performance of the Grand Lodge itself. The different approach is, I think, the outcome, in most cases, of the influence of the local history of the specific geographical area. In some areas you can see more rituals, a more philosophical environment, more charity-oriented Grand Lodges etc. But you don’t see any material difference in the principles and the Masonic values which the International Fraternity abides, because this is what we are. We know what Freemasonry is and we also know what is not Freemasonry. We are a Fraternity, we accept good men in order for them to become better – better for themselves and better for the society. Definitely this is a core purpose of all Grand Lodges in the world. The procedures and the tools – yes, these are different from place to place.
Let’s consider, for example, the USA, where is a peak concentration of charity. Let’s take Europe, on the other hand, which remains more philosophically oriented. So, having all this in mind, I think that the important ratio is somehow, somewhere, in the middle. We need charity activities, because charity is part of our duties as Freemasons, but at the same time we need proper rituals and most of all the philosophical approach of Freemasonry. In the end, we must never forget two things: the Masonic Order and the Landmarks. Without these two, we become an ordinary men’s club with an expiry date. So that is the golden ratio there. Not only charity or ritual, but again you have to back to the Landmarks and try to update not the Landmarks, but the way to be aligned with today’s situation.
Andreas, do you think the world today needs Freemasonry like in the past? Is Freemasonry somehow eroded? Has Freemasonry become more of a charity organization on the globe?
I think yes, definitely yes, we have ups and downs, but mankind needs Freemasonry, needs our members. Brother Claudiu, we have a continuous geometrical progression, a technological revolution. Today we have easy access to unlimited information, to the internet, where people are globally connected in a much easier way compared to the past. We are now entering the AI era, with unknown impact in our daily habits. But nobody and nothing can substitute humans or 100% substitute the human brain, or 100% substitute the emotions and the human logic, which is unique in terms of its vast, unexploited variables. The Masonic logic, which has adopted the principles and the values of our Fraternity, is definitely needed by the world. We, as Freemasons, can contribute to the evolution, but, at the same time, with our logic, we can control the smooth transition in humanity, as we have contributed in the past in all evolutions in the history of mankind. This another evolution, the technological evolution. Now, regarding charity – yes, I agree, in some areas Freemasonry has become a charitable organization, but this is not what the world needs from Freemasonry. Charity is part of the life, part of the duty of every Freemason, but not his only purpose. Sure, Freemasonry is needed to support the new technological era. This is my opinion.
What is the most difficult problem facing Freemasonry today?
I think that the most difficult problem we are currently facing is not coming from the outside or the challenges we are facing due to technologies etc. – the problem we are facing nowadays is to find once again our way to the future and to believe in our existence and our purpose. So the major issue here are threats coming from the inside.
Freemasonry is a global Fraternity. Let’s keep that in mind. Who are its members? For our institutions, members are good men. Let’s keep this in mind as well. And what is their purpose? To try, through Freemasonry, to become better men for themselves and better men for the society. If we start from these three pillars, so to say, Freemasonry will survive and will keep going in a healthy way. We have to believe in Fraternity, we need good men. We need to sacrifice the quantity in favor of the quality. If we keep these things in mind, the future is there. We have to be more selective and live up to the principles.
As you know, the English speaking GLs are losing membership. Is it the same situation nowadays in Cyprus? What kind of policies do you have for retaining membership?
This is true. Even here, in Cyprus, a few years ago we had this phenomenon and it was very alarming to us. However, today we are on the upside. Here, in Cyprus, we put together an in-depth analysis, lodge by lodge, regarding their inactive members. Then we analyzed those figures by age, by years in Freemasonry etc. After that we came to some conclusions and we started gradually applying our policies regarding the future. First of all, a very strict examination of all the applications. Our motto is to sacrifice the quantity in favor of quality. Then we try to give emphasis to the age of the applicants, trying to lower the average age of our members. Of course, this is not black and white, we don’t refuse lightly the entrance of all the eligible men who want to join. We focus on 30-40 year-olds.
Furthermore we insist on the improvement of the ritual work. And we are always encouraging our members’ family socializing, just to create another bond between the families outside the lodge. We try to improve the communication between the Grand Master, the Grand Council, the Grand Lodge and the lodges.
We are now working to create a uniform for all members in terms of regalia, clothing, gloves, ties, pins – everything.
How did the Freemasonry in Cyprus surpass the pandemic? What lessons should be learned from the pandemic period?
Like everybody else in the world, we have been affected by the pandemic. From the beginning we concentrated our efforts in order to safeguard the health of our members, by issuing policies regarding the entrance in the Temple, the rituals etc. We encouraged virtual meetings, but with no ritual work and no official business. I can say that our members were very eager to participate in such type of meetings. At the same time, since all the meetings were informal, it gave the opportunity to all lodges to lift the country or the Grand Lodge barriers regarding the communication with foreign Grand Lodges or with Brethren, from other jurisdictions. I think that the pandemic paved the way to consider implementing virtual meetings globally – with the restriction of no ritual work – and, at the same time, it showed us the way that the Grand Lodge and the lodges can have virtual meetings which prove to be more efficient, more convenient and more productive.
How do you see the future of Freemasonry, Andreas?
I think that everything depends on us, on the members attending Freemasonry. I am confident that humanity needs our Fraternity, it needs our values and our principles. If they are mixed with the Masonic logic and knowledge, as I said before. It’s a must. We can give a lot to the world, but we have to safeguard the Masonic order, the Landmarks. And if we follow the Masonic principles and values I am sure that we Freemasons and the Freemasonry will continue to support humanity in the ages to come and we have a bright future. It depends on us, always. Always. It depends on the members, each member, each unit.
Absolutely. Finally, please, tell us your CV, both Masonic and profane.
I am a mechanical engineer, but I’ve never worked as a mechanical engineer. I was a banker for almost 37 years. I retired and now I’m running a backing service.
I entered Freemasonry 35 years ago and I saw a light in Kyniras Lodge, no. 64 then, in the east of Paphos, in Cyprus, under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Greece. I was very happy to be the first Worhipful Master of my mother lodge under the jurisdiction of the newly formed Grand Lodge of Cyprus in 2006. In the past I was elected two times as a member of the Grand Council of the Lodge of Cyprus and finally in 2015 I was elected Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Cyprus. Since 2009 I attended almost all the Masonic World Conferences in every part of the world and I was very lucky to have the opportunity to meet and discuss various Masonic issues with very good friends and Brothers. I’m also a member in all Masonic bodies operating in Cyprus, from which, as I said before, I have resigned immediately after my election as a Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Cyprus. Because the Grand Master has to wear only one hat – the Grand Master of Cyprus.
Dear Brother Claudiu, I would like to once again thank you for the opportunity to present the Grand Lodge of Cyprus to Masonic Forum subscribers.
Now and then I look at the pictures from my travels and I see the one when we first met in Bucharest, years ago. Lovely evening.
Andreas, I thank you for accepting the invitation and being here with us and for your kindness to speak about the Freemasonry in Cyprus.