THE VATICAN: In a letter published by Vatican media this week, the Catholic Church affirmed a ban on Catholics becoming Freemasons.
"Active membership in Freemasonry by a member of the faithful is prohibited because of the irreconcilability between Catholic doctrine and Freemasonry," the Vatican's Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith said in the letter.
In response to a bishop from the Philippines who expressed concern at the growing number of Freemasons in his country, the department issued its opinion on November 13, which Pope Francis countersigned.
The letter on Freemasons cited a 1983 declaration, signed by the late Pope Benedict XVI, at the time the Vatican's doctrine chief, stating that Catholics "in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion."
Masonic lodges are normally male-only societies and have been linked to conspiracy theories alleging undue influence on global affairs.
Modern Freemasonry "is one of the oldest social and charitable organizations in the world," rooted in the traditions of medieval stonemasons, said the United Grand Lodge of England.
The group said it has 180,000 male members, with two parallel female lodges in England having another 5,000 members, and estimates global Freemasonry membership at some six million.
It lists the late Queen Elizabeth's husband, Prince Philip, former Prime Minister Winston Churchill and, author Rudyard Kipling as past members.