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by JAMES A. MARPLES
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I read news articles about the Vatican supposedly frowning on Freemasonry.  I am 60 years old, a Roman Catholic since infancy, and a Freemason since I was age 18.  When I joined the Fraternity nearly 42 years ago, there was a feeling of quasi-tranquility between American Freemasonry (which is a fraternity) and Roman Catholicism (which is a Church).  I have many Catholic friends who joined Freemasonry as I did.  In America and Canada, the organization does not plot against the Church.  In fact, American Masonic charities such as the Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Dallas, and the several Shriners Hospitals have treated sick, crippled, and burned children for more than 100 years completely free of charge to the families.  Many of those kids were Catholic kids.  The famous composer Wolfgang Mozart (a favorite of the late Pope Benedict XVI) was a Roman Catholic and a Freemason, as was Danny Thomas who founded St. Jude’s Hospital for Children. The label “Freemasons” has been copied, usurped, and corrupted in Italy by spurious and clandestine groups such as P2.  The worthy orders I belong to, expressly forbid me and my fellow American Masons from associating with those hideous groups. I wish that someone could calmly engage in dialogue with Pope Francis and demonstrate the differences between  honorable North American Masonry and certain illegal groups in Italy, Mexico, and elsewhere that mix politics and religion.  In the United States, our Freemasonry is a “friendship society”.  We simply extend the hand of friendship of all good men who believe in a Creator (Almighty God). I am still a Catholic in all ways.  I like to reflect on the life of the Catholic bishop of Zagreb, Yugoslavia, Maksimilijan VrhovacFreemasonry with its focus on harmony had features which attracted men from all walks of life including Croatian nobles and bishops, for example the Zagreb bishop Josip Galjuf (1738–1786), who introduced Vrhovac to the Zagreb lodge, Prudentia.  As a result of this, Bishop Vrhovac requested Parliament to open his own library for public use.  If Pope Francis could see this facet of history, instead of the blinders which many Italian Cardinals seem to have over their eyes, perhaps the Pope would open the door to dialogue and quite likely a Detente between the Holy See and North American Freemasonry and those grand lodges in amity with the USA.