2003. május 30-31.
The Miracle Of Romanian Freemasonry
On May 30-31, 2003, Masonic dignitaries from
across Europe and the
"Romanian Freemasonry is a miracle." These were the words of Sovereign Grand Commander C. Fred Kleinknecht, 33°, on May 30, 2003, in Bucharest, Romania, at the grandest Masonic celebration in the recent history of continental Europe. May 30th is highly symbolic for Masonry, for on that date, Frederick the Great constituted the first Supreme Council in the world. This year, that anniversary coincided with a celebration marking ten years since the rebirth of the Scottish Rite in Romania.
Nearly 2,000 guests attended the occasion's several events, and an entire wing of the majestic Palace of the Parliament became for two days the world's largest Masonic Temple. The ceremonies were held in the Alexandru Ioan Cuza Conference Room, a name of great significance for Romanians. In 1856, Brother Cuza was the Prime Minister of the first government to begin the construction of what is now modern Romania.
Far more important than the sheer splendor of the festivities was the overwhelming attendance of international Masonic dignitaries, including Ill. Kleinknecht, Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council, 33°, of the Southern Jurisdiction, U.S.A., Mother Council of the World. It was this Supreme Council that made the first Scottish Rite initiations in Romania a decade ago in May 1993. Also, the Supreme Council of the Southern Jurisdiction stood by its Romanian Brethren in the difficult years that followed. That is why Ill. Kleinknecht was particularly warmly welcomed in Bucharest. Ill. Robert O. Ralston, 33°, Sovereign Grand Commander of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite, U.S.A., and Ill. Robert W. Woodward, 33°, G.C., Deputy for the American Military Scottish Rite Bodies, Orient of NATO Bases, S.J., also accepted the invitation of the Romanian Supreme Council led by its Sovereign Grand Commander, Ill. Constantin Iancu, 33°. Germany, Austria, Russia, Italy, Portugal, Hungary, and Bulgaria sent both their Grand Masters and Grand Commanders. The ceremonies, which continued on May 31, were also attended by hundreds of Romania's leading Masons and notable artists, journalists, scientists, and politicians.
The ceremonies from the first day were impressive. The formal opening was marked by the powerful sound of a trumpet fanfare from representatives of the Romanian Armed Forces and the moving strains of the Black Sea Philharmonic Orchestra. The first to enter the Temple were the members of the Supreme Council of Romania followed by Sovereign Grand Commander Constantin Iancu, accompanied by Honorary Sovereign Grand Commanders Marcel Schapira, 33°, and Arnold Hermann, 33°. Then came the foreign delegations, each led by its national flag as its national anthem was played by the orchestra. The delegation of the Supreme Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Romania followed, led by M.E. Grand High Priest Stefan Masu, and the delegation of the National Grand Lodge of Romania, led by M. W. Gheorghe Comanescu. And, finally, a most important delegation entered, that of the Supreme Council, S.J., Mother of the World, led by Ill. Kleinknecht who was accompanied by Ill. Dwight A. Hamilton, 33°, Grand Treasurer General of the Supreme Council and S.G.I.G. in Colorado, along with Ill. Earl E. Ihle, Jr., 33°, Director of Development.
An extremely poignant moment came when S.G.C. Constantin Iancu, together with Honorary S.G.C.s Marcel Schapira and Arnold Hermann, lit the candles from the three intersected triangles in the center of the room while the Grand Orator read the names of the Brethren, foreign and Romanian, who had passed to the Eternal Orient, beginning with Frederick the Great and Nicolae Balcescu. The moment ended with the sound of everyone in the hall kneeling for a moment of silent recognition and meditation.
Then, in this solemn atmosphere, the guests were shown a short film about the history of Romanian Freemasonry. This brought everyone into the spirit of the address by S.G.C. Constantin Iancu which followed the film. Ill. Iancu underscored the capacity and cultural and spiritual right of Romania to take full part in the Masonic chain of Universal Brotherhood. He also accented the importance of unity to Universal Masonry in fulfilling its important fraternal mission. After lunch, Grand Commander Iancu presented awards to the Romanian Ritual Corps and many other worthy Romanian Brethren.
In the evening, the foreign delegations, together with the members of the Supreme Council of Romania, were invited to Cotroceni Presidential Palace, where the President of Romania, Ion Iliescu, received them. In his speech, President Iliescu spoke of the role of Masonry in the world and its particular importance in the development of modern Romania. The guests appreciated the insights of President Ion Iliescu who, at the beginning of the 1990s, recognized the vital role of Freemasonry in the process of the democratization and the development of Romania.
The speech was followed by an impressive awards ceremony where Ill. Kleinknecht received from President Iliescu Romania's highest decoration, The Star of Romania in the rank of High Officer. Numerous personalities from the economic, cultural, political, and military circles, who had the opportunity to converse with the foreign guests, attended this ceremony. The evening ended with a dinner at the famous Club McMoni's where all the foreign guests were invited.
The second day began with the parade of the Romanian Ritual Corps, each with its own banner, an overwhelming moment for all participants. Then, in the presence of the Illustrious guests and the Romanian Brethren, the Supreme Council of Romania honored 250 leading public personalities, Mason and non-Mason alike. Artists, writers, doctors, politicians, scientists, and leading journalists received beautifully crafted memorabilia. This was an excellent opportunity to create bridges, to communicate, and, most importantly, to provide an opportunity for non-Masons to learn more about our Brotherhood and its noble goals.
For lunch, guests went to the Prime Minister's Palace where the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mircea Geoana, former Ambassador of Romania to the United States, welcomed them. The Romanian Prime Minister, Adrian Nastase, arrived and warmly recalled the reawakening of Romanian Free-masonry after 1989, a movement in which he was directly involved as Foreign Minister in 1990.
The festivities of the 10th anniversary ended that evening with an impressive ball in the Union Ballroom of the Parliamentary Palace, another symbolic name for the unity of Romanian Freemasonry and also for Universal Freemasonry and humankind. The Philharmonic Orchestra and Romania's premier dance company, the Oleg Danovski Ballet, performed Vienna waltzes and dance sequences from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake before the distinguished guests. This was followed by a traditional folkloric group, the Capalna Maidens, accompanied by Dumitru Farcasu, whose evocative style prompted Ill. Kleinknecht to again express his admiration of Romania. Traditional songs by Nicolae Furdui Iancu, the "Golden Transylvanian Voice," and Mioara Velicu, the "Nightingale of Romanian Folk Songs," combined with dances by the "Crown of the Carpathians" folk ensemble to create an evening that brought joy to everyone.
In this sumptuous atmosphere, replete with indoor fireworks and the chords of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy," the 10th anniversary cake was wheeled in. S.G.C.s Iancu and Kleinknecht, as well as other distinguished guests, sliced the cake. Then everything was transformed into a traditional social dance of Romania during which everyone embraced in fraternal harmony.
Another musical group, the National Big Band conducted by Ionel Tudor, then came to the stage, and professional Romanian dancers provided spots of color among the guests as they danced late into the evening. It was an unfor-gettable night for all of the guests and a crowning moment to this important Masonic anniversary.
Freemasonry has a long history in Romania, going back as far as 1734. That is only 17 years after the constitution of the United Grand Lodge of England and two years before the birth of the Scottish Rite. Many key moments in Romanian history-including the country's unification and independence-were strongly influenced by Masons. The National Grand Lodge of Romania was founded in September 1880. One year later, in 1881, the Supreme Council of Romania was created. For the next half century, Freemasonry was the driving force behind Romania's rapid progress. Those were years of great achievement and change. Romania emerged as a modern nation with a democratic government, a booming economy, and a rich cultural life.
Those hopeful times abruptly ended with the beginning of World War II. But the worst was still to come. It arrived with the Soviet tanks that imposed a communist regime in Bucharest, thus marking the beginning of a nightmare that would last for 50 years. Romanian Freemasons paid a heavy price. They were persecuted, arrested, tried, sent to jails, or forced into labor camps. In 1948, Freemasonry was outlawed by the communist regime. At that time, more then 1,500 Brethren were registered by the Romanian Grand Lodge. No more then a few hundred were still alive in 1964 to benefit from a general amnesty, and by 1989 only 10 Masons living in Romania survived the communist regime. There were, of course, a few Romanian Brethren living abroad.
After almost half a century of ruthless dictatorship, a miracle occurred. Communism collapsed and so did the dictator Ceausescu's regime. It was a rebirth for the whole nation and a time of great need. And so it was, of course, time for Freemasonry to step in again. The Grand Orient of Italy and the Grand Lodge of California reconstituted the first Romanian Lodge in 1990 with the assistance of the Grand Lodges of France and Austria. Three years later, the National Grand Lodge of Romania was reopened, and S.G.C. Kleinknecht and his Supreme Council initiated the first Master Masons into the Scottish Rite. In October 1993, the same Mother Council of the World reconsecrated, in Washington, D.C., the Supreme Council of Romania, Portugal, and Poland. Romanian Brethren were grateful then, and they remain so to this day. In particular, they are pleased that Ill. Kleinknecht and his distinguished delegation were able to attend and help celebrate the 10th anniversary in post-communist Romania. This celebration has closed a difficult chapter and has opened a new one in which genuine Brotherhood and Unity in Europe and the world must and shall triumph.
The Honorable Ion Iliescu, President of Romania
Just one decade ago, in May 1993, it was here, in Cotroceni Palace, that I met the delegation of the Supreme Council of the Southern Jurisdiction, Mother of Council of the World, headed by Sovereign Grand Commander C. Fred Kleinknecht. The success of these dedicated men in re-establishing the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry in Romania is a new testimony of the regenerating power and vitality of our nation. It enhances our confidence in our ability to rebuild the traditions that have contributed to Romanian spiritual life, while connecting us to the democratic evolution of Europe and the world.
We are all aware of the worldwide role played by Masonry and its contribution to the creation of modern Europe, especially in the wake of the 1848 revolutions. In particular, Masonry has contributed to the establishment of modern Romania and its unitary statehood. Yet, these facts were kept hidden in Romania for the last 50 years.
Today, we recognize that many stages in our history can be ascribed to outstanding Romanian Masons who were keen statesmen, prodigious intellectuals, and enlightened figures. By their vision, they outlined the destiny of our nation, and their ideal of unified statehood, shared by all Romanians, came true in 1918, again at the initiative and with the contribution of patriotic Freemasons.
In the context of globalization today, the future of a modern and civilized nation cannot be viewed outside dialogue. We need as many bridges as possible to facilitate cultural exchange. Freemasonry is part of this process. It is a communicating vessel for all the forces willing to work for the welfare of the Romanian nation, its development, and full assertion.
Tonight's glorious ceremony is meant as an acknowledgment of the continuity of Romanian Freemasonry and an expression of gratitude for all the Romanian Masons have accomplished. Please accept my heartfelt congratulations and best wishes for every success now and in the future.
The above text consists of extracts edited from a speech given by President Iliescu on May 30, 2003, at the tenth anniversary celebration of the re-establishment of the Supreme Council, 33°, Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, and of the National Grand Lodge of Romania.