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Pataki declines to join the Masons

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May 19, 2003, 5:29 PM EDT

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Gov. George Pataki has decided against joining the Masons because of the Roman Catholic Church's long-standing objection to the world's oldest and largest secret society, a spokeswoman said Monday.

Pataki, who is a Catholic, was asked to join last September, but passed on the offer.

"In deference to his church, the invitation was respectfully declined," said Pataki spokeswoman, Lisa Dewald Stoll.

In an open letter published on the New York Mason's Web site, Grand Master Carl Fitje wrote that Pataki had accepted his offer to become a Master Mason. The induction was to take place at a June ceremony at the Grand Lodge in Manhattan.

Fitje praised Pataki for his leadership after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center by activating the National Guard to protect vulnerable areas like airports, bridges, tunnels and waterways.

"He was instrumental in helping to restore calm and committing the total resources of New York state to New York City," Fitje wrote.

Stoll said Pataki was offered an invitation to join, but upon further review, declined the offer.

There was no immediate comment from the Masons Monday. The story was first reported by the New York Post.

Church officials historically have objected to an attitude among Masons regarded as anti-clerical. Pope Clement XII first expressed the church's opposition to them in a 1738 declaration.

More properly known as Freemasons, members of the secret fraternal societies guided by national Grand Lodges have a membership estimated at about 6 million worldwide. The principles of Freemasonry are brotherliness, charity and mutual aid.


New York Masons:

Copyright 2003, The Associated Press


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