15 January 2008
Tirana _ Albanian President Bamir Topi met on Sunday with Jean Michel Quillardet, the Grand Master of the Grand Orient de France, a self-described masonic organization. Topi presented a historical assessment of relations between Albania and France, and informed Quillardet about the latest democratic developments in Albanian society and its reforms which form part of the country’s Euro-Atlantic national strategy. During the meeting they exchanged views about the latest developments in the region and especially about the process of negotiation over the future status of Kosovo.
The Grand Orient de France is a freemasons’ organization, formed in 1736, that says it promotes the principles of “the respect for a tradition inherited from the founders of freemasonry and the search for progress for the improvement of men and society.” Its members practice a number of traditional secret rituals as part of their activities.
The organization lists among its past members famous cultural and political personalities, such as Voltaire, La Fayette, Garibaldi, Auguste Blanqui, Victor Schoelcher, Emir Abd-El-Kader, Louise Michel, Bakounine, Jean Zay, Félix Eboué and Pierre Brossolette.
The Consecration of the new Grand Lodge in the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia by the Pro Grand Master, Lord Northampton, and a team of Grand Officers on 30 September was the culmination of nearly ten years work. There had been no Masonic presence in Macedonia for nearly 80 years when a group of Macedonians approached the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) in 1996 with a request to be made regular Freemasons in Lodges in London.
They had done their research and had realised that there was both regular and irregular Masonry, and were determined that the new Masonic presence in their country would be of unimpeachable regularity. After due diligence, the group were introduced to a number of London Lodges and, they having decided that the candidates were “fit and proper persons”, arrangements were made for each of the Lodges to have a dispensation to meet on the same day on three occasions in 1997 and the group became Master Masons under the UGLE.
Not only were they regular in their attendance at their Lodges in London, but they were also given permission to hold a Lodge of Instruction in Skopje, and a number of English brethren, in particular Brother John Matthews, regularly visited them and helped them in their work.
Regular visits to London were a major commitment in time and money, so in 2001 the brethren petitioned to have a Lodge meeting in Skopje, which was agreed, and a team went out from England and consecrated the Skopje Lodge No. 9721 on 1 October 2001. The Lodge worked in English, which became a small problem, as many potential good candidates had no English. In 2001, Unity Lodge No. 9749 was consecrated with special permission to work the ritual in Macedonian. It was followed, in 2003, by White Dawns Lodge No. 9765, also working in Macedonian.
By 2005, the three Lodges had demonstrated that they were capable of running their own affairs and the decision was taken to form them into a Grand Lodge.
The Consecration was one of the largest international Masonic meetings in Europe this year, in which 15 Grand Lodges were represented, 11 by their MW Grand Masters in person, the remaining four by special representatives.
The new Grand Master for Macedonia, Brother Vladimir Sukarov, in his address, paid special tribute to the Pro Grand Master and his team not only for the superb ceremony, but also for all the support and fraternal affection that had been shown to his Brethren from their first coming to England.
The new Grand Lodge had been granted prospective recognition by England at the Quarterly Communication on 14 September, which became effective immediately the Consecration was complete. It was accorded immediate recognition by a number of the Grand Masters present at the ceremony and is now seeking recognition throughout the regular Masonic world.
The Consecration was followed by a Festival Banquet, to which the ladies had been invited. It was a fitting end to a very happy and exciting day. As Lord Northampton remarked in proposing the Toast to the new Grand Lodge, the day had been the culmination of nearly ten years of hard work, but the real work would begin the next day when they would begin to set the standards and traditions of the Grand Lodge of Macedonia.
John Hamill is Director of Communications at the United Grand Lodge of England