The City, Man, Europe
XX September 1870
From the unification of Italy to a united Europe
Speech of the Grand Master Stefano Bisi
Welcome to the Vascello,
Welcome to the home of the Freemasons of Grande Oriente d’Italia.
Welcome to the garden of Fraternity.
We are many, let me say very many , this evening in Rome’s most beautiful park, so well kept with so much love and professional care by our gardeners. We are many and we are so happy, even if this participation may create some logistic problems.
We are proud of this home on the Gianicolo hill, but we are equally proud of another flagship, Casa Nathan, inaugurated last March. Casa Nathan is the home to all Brothers, beginning from the active and hard-working Masonic communion of Rome. It is a Temple of crystal and Light, just like the Vascello is a temple in the green fully respecting the beauty of Nature that surrounds us. The two homes are two pillars of Grande Oriente d’Italia, they are our past and our present, but also the future for our communion. All temples spread all over Italy, so well kept with love and passion, are pillars of Grande Oriente d’Italia.
We are here to continue a tradition, we are here to renew our pact of loyalty to the Constitution and to our values, in front of many friends who are not members of our Craft and to whom I give a warm welcome.
We are here to look ahead, to look to the future with confidence. We are aware of our glorious past, yet our eyes are turned to the future, a growing tree is not nostalgic about its roots.
Dear Brothers, dear Friends, we the Grande Oriente d’Italia are like a big tree that draws its precious lifeblood from the past, but branches and leaves are the present, strong brothers eager to grow up looking into the face of the sun. A tree that has been standing there for centuries, aware of its nobility and offering a safe shelter to those sitting under its fronds always shaken by the wind of Liberty and free thinking. A tree with thick foliage, not a bare trunk with dry branches.
The tree of Grande Oriente d’Italia has a solid trunk and many values hang as fruits from its peaks. Ideals are necessary just like water is for life of the tree, of Man, of the Universe.
A life without ideals would be as dry as desert sand and would drop the individual in the empty and bottomless shaft of indifference, worthlessness, depression, in what Freemasons call darkness. On the contrary, strong action, supported by values and noble aspirations fills life, makes it bright, makes it richer of meanings. Taking fills our hands, giving fills our hearts.
This is precisely what Freemasonry does. Freemasonry is as ancient as mankind is. Freemasonry works and operates “for the benefit and progress of humanity”, its life-giving and propulsive action identified and supported common ideals for all men in all corners of our Earth. Freedom, Equality, Fraternity, Tolerance, Solidarity, Universal Peace, Defense of Human Rights, with Dignity of every human being in the foreground. And speaking of dignity, I think of our marines. Please let’s think about our marines.
This is who Freemasons are. They are people who believe that human dignity should be put at the first place on the scale of ideals. They are people who celebrate, today, XXth September as Autumn Equinox and as Breach of Porta Pia. Today the wall we have to tear down is that of intolerance, religious fanaticism that could destroy what men of good will have built up day after day, brick after brick.
We need harmony, we need understanding.
A society is going well, is moving towards progress, is promoting the values of family, of spirit, of good, of friendship, a society is prosperous without conflicts among its members, a society starts its peaceful journey towards a better future when everyone does his duty. These words are not mine, but they were said by Giovanni Falcone, a magistrate who brutally paid with his own life the price for his work for justice. These words are more relevant than ever. How could we ignore them? Let us think about it.
I would also like to quote the words of Paolo Borsellino, another great magistrate killed by murderous hands without values. During an interview he anticipated his death and gave a great lesson in courage. He said: “There is fear in everyone, it is normal, but it is important that it is accompanied by courage. We should not leave fear overcome us, otherwise fear becomes an obstacle preventing us from moving forward. We must keep going straight ahead and have courage. So much courage”. We too, dear Brothers, must have courage in carrying out our work for the good of humanity, in a world scenario which is scary indeed and systematically give us shivers. Many crisis situations threaten human Harmony and put Reason under check.
“We need courage at a time of difficulty. Difficulties stimulate courage, courage tempers strength, strength imposes the route to destiny. This is the meaning of life”, said the philosopher Gustavo Rol.
Let’s look around. Everything is changing with dizzying rapidity. We are witnesses of unbridled globalisation, of the crisis of the economic markets, of lacerating conflicts, escalation of fundamentalism, violence on women and children, racism, the great tragedy of immigration which sees Italy and Lampedusa at the forefront from the beginning. And the crisis of ideals. The plot of social fabric is ripping apart. Maybe Humanity has never confronted, like it is happening now, so many changes at all levels, What can our stone do? The stone that we are trying to smooth, day by day, in this world that looks more and more vicious, in our cold and hasty cities where the smile on people’s faces is lost, where everything encroaches into personal and material Ego, where everyone mistrust others and turns his shoulders?
In these cities we need courageous and capable men. Brave and capable, even revolutionary as it was in the early 1900s with our brother Ernesto Nathan. He is a mayor of Rome who represents even today a true example of social activity and good administration of public affairs. It is necessary to act with reason and with heart. Cold head, warm heart.
We, as Freemasons, have the duty and the responsibility to protect, defend and transfer in the world the principles expressed in the Trinomial that we find at the Orient in our Temples; Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. We have to be confident, we have to convey confidence, we have to pass it to the others.
We must work to build a better Society, a better Civilization and a better world. We have to do it with the compass of our free thinking, as pure as air is, with the square and the straight edge. Speak with balance and act correctly. We do not have to move back in face of anything. Our Communion is sometimes criticized or exposed to the changing winds of the media and this is the only way to keep it alive and firm in front of the changing world and progress. In step with the times. This is the only way to keep resistant, indissoluble and stable our Fraternal chain.
Freemasonry has always been able to be at the forefront, to understand and anticipate events. This is what history tells. In this crucial moment of human history, we the Freemasons of Grande Oriente d’Italia, need to be true citizens of the world. We need to be courageous, just like the “boy from Europe” described in the song of my fellow citizen Gianna Nannini:
You guy of Europe
You never lose your way
You guy of Europe
You carry luck around
You guy of Europe
You never plant a flag.
Citizens of the world without ever planting a flag? Don’t we have so many symbols to promote and to be proud of? Will anybody see it as a paradox? No, this is not a paradox, an escape from reality, from real life. We were once builders of cathedrals, today we are builders of a multi-cultural citizenship, we are builders of harmony. We do not plant flags because we want to look over the horizon, we want to broaden our vision keeping strong roots, we do not have to stop because it seems we have achieved a goal.
We need to keep on determined on our route, the path of wisdom along which we find safe locations where we can exercise our Royal Art. Our temples, our workshops have known for centuries the integration among different cultures and races. With us, men of different colour and religion sit next to each other, not against each other. Everyone is free to stand up, take the floor and start a dialogue, a confrontation and grow. We always try to give the best of us to the Lodge and to Humanity. Through patient, tenacious, enlightened and laborious research.
Our Country, this Europe is searching for greater cohesiveness, a fundamental and common identity still far from being well-defined. This Europe searching for a true solidarity is entitled to hear our thoughts, our actions, our ideas, our decisions of courageous and free men. This is why that “guy from Europe” of Gianna Nannini brings many flags to be planted over his shoulder. He walks with the cockiness of his youth and dialogues with the world. He has courage and hope. He knocks at our doors because he sees in us builders of integration and equality, builders of harmony.
Just a few days ago we received an email by a young man knocking at our door, one of the many young men who see us as a school of life. “I lived and worked in Ukraine and Denmark” this guy writes to Grande Oriente d’Italia “my values allowed me to become aware of the deep, bright light that everyone has got inside. As a young man of my time I want to bring my humble contribution to a common project where men and brothers work together through the teachings of life and the trials of spirit. A project for the sake of future generations”.
Here we have, my dear brothers, a beautiful message that should make us even more aware and responsible of our great mission, of our uniqueness and universality. Let’s give and let’s keep giving this young man and all others knocking at our door an answer up to the standards of our tradition. Let’s give answers with “strength and vigour”, without giving up in front of the climate of discouragement around us. Let’s participate to the change, let’s remind ourselves that change happens if we fight for an ideal, an ideal of freedom, our inhexhaustible treasure that we have in our home and we can propose as a point of reference to Humanity. Our Lodges are small microcosms of democracy, tolerance, solidarity, like so many bell towers of this Italy, villages and men with strong, solid ideals that were not broken and need to be defended strenuously. We can build, we must build a better society, day by day, brick by brick, moment by moment, ad infinitum yet being aware that the wall inside our temples shall never be completed. Our work and our action shall never be finished.
Let’s start with small gestures. Let’s stay close to our elderly brothers, the brothers that I prefer to call the young old ones.
I will mention one for all: Mario Sacconi, from Rome, ninety years of age. A few days ago he came here, to the Vascello; he can barely walk, yet he climbed up the staircase as light and enthusiast as a boy. Let’s support the young people, they are our life and our future, let’s fight for their cultural education. Let’s give them hope and a perspective. Pablo Neruda said: Hope has two beautiful daughters, disdain and courage. Disdain for reality and courage to change it. This in what we must do, find the courage to change reality and build the future of a better Humanity.
Roma, Villa Il Vascello, 20th September 2014