Our Ambassador Honorable RW Brother Claudiu Ionescu
talking to Ill. Constantin Iancu,
SGC of the Supreme Council of AASR in Romania
and Founding Grand Master of the National Grand Lodge of Romania
(interview reprinted from MASONIC FORUM Magazine No. 10, pp. 2-5)
Illustrious and Most Powerful Sovereign Grand Commander, I would ask you to begin this interview with a survey of the most important moments in the Romanian Freemasonry history.
Romania has a long and rich Masonic tradition: we could begin with Antonio Maria del Chiaro, who served as secretary first to Constantin Brancoveanu and then to Constantin Mavrocordat, two of Romania’s most progressive princes. Only a few years after the establishment of modern Freemasonry in Romania, in 1734, del Chiaro founded the Lodges of Galați and Iași. Prince Constantin Mavrocordat was responsible for constituting the Moldova Lodge, with the Metropolitan Bishop Leon Gheuca of the Romanian Orthodox Church as Worshipful Master.
Traditionally, Romania’s outstanding personalities were also Freemasons, including Prince Dimitrie Cantemir, the historian, philosopher, and champion of Moldavian independence during the late 17th — early 18th centuries; Horia and Closca, who led the rebellion that abolish serfdom (1785); and Tudor Vladimirescu, who became the popular symbol of the struggle for national independence at the beginning of the 19th century. Many of the cultural, political and military leaders from the Revolutionary Movement of 1848 were freemasons, including Nicolae Bălcescu, Constantin Rosetti, Mihai Kogălniceanu, Vasile Alecsandri, Alexandru Ioan Cuza, Costache Negruzzi, George Magheru, Ion C. Brătianu, and the like. As is well known, Modern Romania owes its existence to these Masons.
During the reigning of Carol I, the Freemasonry experiences a great development. As a consequence, in 1879 the Grand East of Romania was established. In September 1880, the Grand East was transformed into the National Grand Lodge of Romania. Shortly thereafter, in June 1881, the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite in Romania was founded.
While Freemasonry continued to develop during the first decades of the 20th century, it also suffered setbacks. In 1937, under the leadership of Jean Pangal, Romanian Masonry dissolves itself, on the demand of Romania’s King, Carol II. The activity is officially restarted at the end of the year 1944, authorized by the Allied Committee of Control and with the acceptance of the Romanian Orthodox Church. Unfortunately, it works only up to 1948, when the new political power (loyal to the Soviet Union political orientation of those times) interdicts it in a dictatorial way. This meant the start for a period of persecutions, of suffering and torturing; many Masons had to stay in prison for more than 15 years, for the simply reason they were Masons.
After 1948, a few brethren succeeded to escape abroad, principally to France and Israel, where some attempted to reconstitute Romanian Masonry in exile while others played a decisive role in establishing Masonry in the newly-established State of Israel.
After 1989, Freemasonry rekindles its light in the countries of the ex-communist bloc. I would like you to insist upon the year 1989 and on what happened in Romania at that time.
The resumption of Regular Freemasonry in East and Central Europe was decided in London in 1989. Grande Oriente d’Italia, to which I belonged, was charged with reopening Regular Freemasonry in Romania, assisted by the Grand National Lodge of France, more precisely by its Grand Secretary, R.W. Bro. Trestournel.
I, personally, was appointed this task by Grande Oriente d’Italia. After a long period abroad I returned to Romania, presented myself to the authorities at that time, and openly declared the purpose of my return. I must recognize that, after a period of natural perplexity, those authorities understood the existence of Regular Freemasonry to be a sign of evident normality in a democratic country. Thus, the reestablishment of Regular Freemasonry in new Romania was permitted. In 1990, the first Regular Lodge in Romania (Concordia) was founded. In fact, it was the first Regular Lodge founded in all of East and Central Europe.
Later, on 30 April 1992, the two branches of Romanian Masonry were fused: the Regular and Modern branch brought after 1989 by Grande Oriente d’Italia and the branch of traditional Romanian Masonry, represented by surviving veterans who were under the care of the Grand Lodge of California. These veterans were regularized in an official ritual meeting by the Grand Master of Grande Oriente d’Italia himself, and thus constituted in the Nicolae Bălcescu Lodge with the Ill. Br. Nicu Filip as their W.M. At the same time, a second Lodge — Delta Dunării — was founded.
Thus, at 24th of January 1993, the three Lodges under the obedience of Grande Oriente d’Italia — Concordia, Delta Dunării and Nicolae Bălcescu — realize, in a most exceptional ritual, the National Grand Lodge of Romania, by transferring the Masonic Light from the Universally Recognized Masonic Powers. Bro. Nicu Filip was elected Grand Master and I was elected Deputy Grand Master. It was no mere coincidence that the 24th of January, the day on which the Regular Masonic Light was rekindled in our country, is also the day when our Brethren founded Modern Romania.
On 7 May 1993, the Supreme Council Mother of the World of the AASR in Washington, together with the Lodge of NATO Bases, came to Bucharest and initiated Romanian and East European Brethren. In October 1993, in Washington, at the plenum of the Supreme Council Mother of the World, and in the presence of the Grand Masonic Powers, some Romanian Brethren, together with Brethren from Portugal and Poland, were initiated in the 33rd and last degree. This act made possible the reconstitution and reconsecration of the Supreme Councils in Portugal, Poland and Romania. I was then elected Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council in Romania.
There is a common belief across the borders that Romanian Masonry is the most powerful from the ex-communist countries’ Masonries. Is that true?
Well, with all the modesty, this is probably true. Despite all the hardships, not having a moment of rest and being attacked on all sides, Romanian Freemasonry has managed to survive and save throughout the years the Unity and sincere wish to work in full Regularity! These hardships did not allow Romanian Masonry the normal minimum conditions that others have enjoyed to work and develop in peace. (…)
Today, as in the past, the Romanian elite has gathered around Romanian Masonry. These include the most important politicians in all parties, leading bankers, businessmen, doctors, artists, professors and lawyers — almost all of the Romanian elite.
Because of the strong will for Unity, Brotherhood, and serving Romanian Nation and Humanity, YES!, we are a powerful Freemasonry. (…)