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"The Pope of the Council"

Part 19: John XXIII and Masonry



October November 1996

Inquest into the Knights of Malta

On November 14, 1951, Ludovico Chigi Albani della Rovere, Grand Master of the Order of Malta died in Rome. Normally, the Knights would have then convened to elect a successor; but they did not do so. They were unable to do so: Pius XII formally forbade them to do so. The Pope appointed a commission of Cardinals [Papal Commission] charged to reform (or suppress) the Order of Malta, and for the rest of the days of Papa Pacelli, the Knights would not have a Grand Master. All of that changed on June 24, 1961. On that date, the feast of Saint John the Baptist, patron of the Order (and of Masonry), John XXIII received the Knights at the Vatican, and to their great satisfaction, publicly issued the Brief by which the Commission of Cardinals instituted by Pius XII was suppressed. He also approved the new constitutions of the Order, and authorized the election of a Grand Master. This is how Angelo de Moiana, cousin of Msgr. Mario Nasalli Rocca de Corneliano, "Grand Cameralinga of His Holiness" was elected the following May. (1)

But why had Pius XII, for so many years, left the Order without a Master, put it under the direction of a sole Lieutenant General, and under the surveillance of a Commission of Cardinals?

The fact is that there were several problems. The Knights had preserved little to nothing of their original character of a religious order, and there were few members who professed their vows. Already in 1799, in the aftermath of the Revolution, a schismatic, the Czar of Russia, had been elected Grand Master (1799-1800). And also, a separate branch was founded in the last century, , St. John’s Order, which was linked to the (very masonic) British monarchy . (2) A certain number of Anglican Knights were received by the Grand Master of the Knights of St. John. The ante litteram ecumenism of the Order was extolled by Brother Marsaudon himself. (3) But most unsettling was the infiltration of Masonry into the Order of Malta. (4) This infiltration was confirmed by documents and admitted by the masons themselves, for example, Marsaudon and Mola. (4) This is why Cardinal Nicola Canali intervened. (5)

In his capacity of "Grand Commendatore Prior of Rome of the Holy and Sovereign Military Order of Jerusalem, Cardinal Canali said that Malta wanted to take them over. These enemies of Malta were accused of wanting to suppress or reform Malta and put it directly under the control of the Holy See, and in particular the Order of the Holy Sepulche, of which Msgr. Canali was the Grand Master. (6) In reality, Cardinal Canali, who had contributed to Pius X’s anti-modernist battle, was alarmed by the masonic infiltration that we have already mentioned. This is treated in the "Editorial Note" of Marsaudon’s book, L’Oecumenisme vu par un franc-macon de Tradition, written by Editor Vitiano: . "Attacked under the Pontificate of Pius XII, by the integrist Roman clan, he [Marsaudon] resigned his office of Plenipotentiary of the Order, but was immediately promoted to the high office of Minister Emeritus, the only Knight of Malta to currently have that distinction. The Grand Magistrate of Malta, in his struggle against Cardinal Canali, never abandoned Baron de Marsaudon who, from his side, was constrained to continue to give his services to the diplomatic and hospitalier plans." ( 7 )In fact, Marsaudon, a Freemason, was discovered to be in the Order, and that was the reason he was forced to resign.

Also, Franco Belligrandi’s disputed account of the episode (8) does not seem at all unfounded, and did much to clarify at least some of the affair:

In this French period, an incident took place, ignored for the most part, which for a moment lifted the veil covering Roncalli’s presumed membership in the Masonic sect. A letter from Cardinal Canali, hard as a rock, was sent ( 9 ) to His High Eminence, Prince Chigi Albani della Rovere (10). Pius XII….had just learned….that the minister of the Order of Malta in Paris was a mason…He discovered that [Marsaudon] had been given "the Grand Magisterial Cross" on the recommendation of his predecessor [dePierredon] and, above all, as is known, on the recommendation of the Nuncio in Paris, Roncalli. The result of this first inquest was immediately referred to the Vatican, to Cardinal Canali who exclaimed: "Poor Roncalli. I am upset at having to embarrass him and I hope that it won’t cost him the Cardinal’s hat…" With the greatest circumspection, the Vatican decided to put the Order in Paris out to pasture, and sent a person to Paris who would attend to this highly delicate affair. In effect, three persons implicated in this period are of central interest: the Nuncio, because of his collaboration with the Order of Malta over some delicate affairs in Argentina; the Comte de Pierredon for the many years of his service, first in Bucharest and then in Paris; and Baron Marasaudon himself, for meritorious work in obtaining the official recognition of the Order by the French government.


A Chaplain of the Order, Msgr. Rossi Stockalper was named "Magistral Visitor"; he was sent to Paris to speak with Father Joseph Berteloot, a Jesuit expert in all aspects of Masonry. Stockalper also spoke to the Vicar General of the diocese, Msgr. Maurice Bohan. Both confimed Marsaudon’s affiliation. "The Magistral Visitor," his mind made up, went then to Number 10 avenue de Président Wilson, the Nuncio’s headquarters. He tactfully asked Roncalli about the news surrounding the baron-Mason. The fat priest of Sotto il Monte, between smiles and pleasantries, sent for the Chaplain of the Order of Malta, Msgr. Bruno Heim. Today, this priest is Apostolic Legate in Great Britain. He surprised the visitor from Rome with his clergyman’s habit and the lighted pipe that he held between his teeth, and then with his stupefying assertions on Masonry, which he defined as "one of the ultimate forces of social conservatism in the world and thus, a force of religious preservation." Finally, he astounded him with his enthusiastic judgment of the Baron Marsaudon, who, he said, had helped the Nuncio understand the transcendent value of Masonry. It was because of these merits that the Nuncio in Paris, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, had supported his nomination as Minister of the Order of Malta in Paris. Finally Msgr. Stockalper received the coup de grace when, protesting that Canon 2335 of Canon Law called for the excommunication of members of Masonry, Heim responded…that "the nunciature of Paris was in the process of working secretly to reconcile the Church and Masonry." This was in 1950! ( 11 )

The episode, as it was told by Bellegrandi, is absolutely similar and corresponds to what we already know from other sources. Msgr. Heim, of Bale is a liberal-monarchist, consequently favorable to an Anglo-Saxon style of Masonry, the force of social conservatism. Transferred to Austria after this Parisian incident, he eventually went, October 21 and 23, 1966 to Scandinavia, to the Plenary conference of the Episcopal Conference of the Scandinavian and Baltic countries, on ? The bishops of these countries decided not to ask for the renunciation of masons who belonged to the Church, which permitted then dual membership in the Church and Masonry. Mola reported that this decision had been prepared "by the apostolic delegate to Scandinavia, Msgr. Bruno B. Heim, secretary of John XXIII when he was Nuncio in Paris." (12)

What then was the climate that prevailed during these years in certain French (and German) Catholic milieux? The Jesuit Father Joseph Berteloot, to whom the Roman visitor was sent for information, was already, since 1947, a pioneer in the reconciliation between the Church and symbolic masonry; he was also an intimate friend of Mason, Albert Lantoine ; ( 13 ) his works on the possibility of a reconciliation date from 1947 to 1952, years of Roncalli’s Nunciature! The contacts between certain masons and the Nuncio in Paris, the belief that there could be a possible collaboration spread, the ideas of Msgr. Heim and those of Msgr. Roncalli, their friendship for Marsaudon, Herriot, Auriol…All of this came to a conclusion in the Masonic initiation in Paris of Msgr. Roncalli being not at all unlikely. At any rate, a fact remains certain: Pius XII, in appointing a commission charged to reform the Order of Malta, approved the concerns of Cardinal Canali; John XXIII reversed the decision of his predecessor and reopened the path of Masonic infiltration in the Order. Only in the Order---and also in the Church? It is this that we are going to see next. In the meantime, less than two months after the audience with the Knights of Malta, the elderly Cardinal Canali died. His antagonist, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, did not make the least show of regret. (14)


  1. Cf. Documentation catholique, 1961, col 1193 and 1262. (Brief and new constitutions), col 1477 (Cardinal Giobbe was named Patron of the Order), and 1962, col. 1029 (election of the new Grand Master)
  1. Cf. Prosper Jardin, Les Chevaliers de Malte, Une perpétuelle croisade. Librairie Académique Perrin, Paris, 1974, pp 305 to 308. There is also a separate branch in the Lutheran denomination, the Johannine Order (Cf pp. 299 to 303).
  2. "If we seemed to dwell on the subject of the Order of Malta, it is because it is interesting from an ecumenical point of view. It is because it is sovereign [the Order] that it can admit Knights of the Orthodox confession. A Rumanian branch, initially created in Paris, was accepted into the seat of the Order in Rome by the Grand Magister. And perhaps it useful to point out that Czar Paul Ist was Grand Master of the Order." Marsaudon, Oecumenisme….op cit p. 40.


Continuation of Part 19 of "The Pope and the Council: John XXIII and Masonry"

Relevance to Siri being this is the faction that usurped him and he himself said, in previous material translated, that the Conclave should be open and no longer secret to prevent the influence of Freemasonry.

John XXIII’s volte face

If John XXIII interrupted the chain of condemnations and excommunications accumulated by all of his predecessors in being silent on Masonry, it cannot however be said that he was neutral on this subject. According to the experts’ unanimous consensus, it is under his pontificate that was begun the volte face, and that for the first time dialogue was opened. We present the evidence: Dupuy, the Grand master of the Grand Lodge of France, declared that "John XXIII and Vatican II provided formidable impetus to the task of clarification, and to reciprocal détente in the relations between the Church and Masonry. (51) Léon de Poncins, Freemasonry’s great enemy, wrote:

The campaign of rapprochement between Freemasonry and the Church remained in a latent state under Pius XII’s pontificate; the fire burned under the ashes, but the progressivists who had seized considerable influence realized that their efforts had no chance of coming to the fore with Pius XII…With the arrival of John XXIII, there was an explosion…One had the impression of there really being an international campaign, methodically orchestrated… (52)


In 1970, Salvini, the Grand Master of Masonry, asserted:

John XXIII recently published a document which, on this subject, comes very close to our position….and Mater et Magistra, as well as Pacem in Terris, effectively present ideas very suggestive of a humane rapprochement among different ideologies. (53)


The Freemason, Volpicelli, declared:

…[T]wo recent pontificates, that of Pope John and Pope Wojtyla, have equally valued the two communities of the Church and Masonry… (54)


In truly Masonic language, Father Esposito assures us:

…[W]ith the advent of Pope John and the Council, the ecclesial community has transformed itself into a veritable studio where the stonecutters, the sculptors and the artists of all kinds, architects and chaplains, have committed themselves to … the meticulous work whose goal is building the new cathedral of the future. (55)


The Catholic, Alec Mellor, who joined the Lodge with the permission of the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris, Msgr. Maurice Felton, wrote:

The ultimate phase [of "put out the fire"] had to be prepared by the Aggiornamento desired by John XXIII and by Vatican II, then by Paul VI. (56)


Robert Fabiani wrote:

It was John XXIII who broke the ice with a measure that passed completely in silence, authorizing Protestants converted to Catholicism and initiated into Masonry to remain peacefully in the lodges. Since then, signs of contact have multiplied… (57)


Jesuit Father Antonio Ferrer Benimelli confirmed Roncalli’s "possibilist" position of this dual membership:

And that---meaning that Masonry is an association in which all Christians have a place---John XXIII and Paul VI understood very well, as had Cardinal Ratzinger’s predecessor, Cardinal Seper, who, in 1972 had already uttered the words making possible Catholic presence inside Masonry. (58)


Marsaudon affirms the same thing:

Msgr. Roncalli formally advised me to stay in Masonry. He received me at Castel Gandolfo in my capacity as Minister Emeritus of the Sovereign Order of Malta, and blessed me, renewing his encouragement for a rapprochement project between the Churches, at least between the Church and Masonry of Tradition (this means regular masonry). (59)


Although brief, this review demonstrates, for the judgment of those concerned with this question, that John XXIII’s governance changed the 100 year intransigence of the Church vis a vis Masonry into an overture which resulted in permitting dual membership in the Church and in Masonry.

The major agreements between Roncalli and Masonry

Already, since 1967, Father Esposito was engaged in dialogue with Masonry. In order to demonstrate that legitimacy and possibilities of this dialogue, he wrote numerous works, some quotes from which are contained in the article, Le grandi concoranze tra Chiesa e Massoneria ("The major agreements between the Church and Masonry"). In reality, the "agreements" in question didn’t exist between the Church and Masonry, but only between the latter and John XII, Paul VI, and John Paul II. In order to confirm these agreements, Father Esposito did not make do by citing the direct relations of certain men of the Church with those of Masonry; rather, he also cited the relations of associations or of leaders who, if they were not explicitly masons, had been founded or willed by Masonry, that is to say the Society of Nations (UN), with its universal Declaration of the Rights of Man; the Red Cross, Scoutism and the Rotary Club. In this article I shall treat John XXIII’s rapport with these organizations.

  1. The UN and the Declaration of the rights of Man.

On December 10, 1948, the UN voted in a Declaration of the Rights of Man which reprised, in name and content, that of the French Revolution, already condemned by Pope Pius VI. Esposito wrote:


{W]ith John XXIII, the epoch of overcoming Catholic narcissism began." The acceptance of the rules of dialogue and of ecumenism inaugurated the law of reciprocity, in the sense that the existence and explicit recognition of the reciprocal values of each were admitted…In the Encyclical, Pacem in terris (April 11, 1963), Pope John made explicit reference to the UN and to the Declaration of the Rights of Man by eulogizing:


"The essential goal of the United Nations is to maintain and to consolidate the peace between peoples, of developing among them amicable relations founded on the principle of equality, of reciprocal respect and the broadest collaboration in all areas of human activity…One of the most important acts accomplished by the UN was the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man approved December 10, 1948 by the General Assembly of the United Nations….Certain points in This Declaration have elicited objections and been treated to justified reservations. However, We consider this Declaration as a step toward the establishment of a juridico-political organization of the world community. " (60)


John XXIII thus substantively approved (even if he expressed some generic reservations) which the Church had condemned.

References for this section:

51.  Cf. J. PLONCHARD D’ASSAC, Le secret des franc-maçons, Chiré, 1978, p. 169.
52.  LEON DE PONCINS, Infiltrations ennemies dans L’Eglise. Documents and testimony, Paris, 1970, pp 85-88.
53.  Catholic-Masonic Colloquy held at Ariccia, 20041970, in R. Esposito, La réconciliazione…op. cit., p. 79.
54. Catholic-Masonic debate held at Lecce, February 24, 1979, op. cit. p. 114.
55.  Ibid, p. 122.
56.  ALEC MELLOR, op. cit. p. 114.
57.  R. FABIANI, op.cit., p. 85.
58.  Article published in El Pais, Madrid, March 10, 1985, translated by Hiram, Rome, April 1985, and reported by R. ESPOSITO, Le grandi concordanze…op, cit. p. 84.
59.  MARSAUDON, De l ‘initiation…op. cit. pp. 135136, quoted by R. ESPOSITO, Le grandi concordanze…op. cit. p. 391.
60.  R. ESPOSITO, Le grandi concordanze…op.cit. pp. 251-252.