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Wednesday, 26 June, 2002, 08:44 GMT 09:44 UK
Freemasons open doors to 'secret society'
Freemasons are holding a week-long series of events in an effort to throw off their image as a secret society.

The doors of lodges across England and Wales are being opened to the public, who will be welcome whether they roll up a trouser-leg or not.

The United Grand Lodge of England hopes Freemasonry in the Community Week will help overcome the negative feelings many people have about the movement.

Pro Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England, Lord Northampton, said: "We are determined to dispel the myths and misconceptions that have surrounded Freemasonry for far too long."

Hospice

Perhaps to back-up its claim that it is not a secret society, details of the week's events are published on the Lodge's website.

Freemason facts
Duke of Kent grandmaster since1967
Freemasonry is 300-years-old
20m a year for charity
320,000 members in England
8,700 lodges in UK
Lodges in Africa, South America, New Zealand and Asia
Among the 1,000 events planned for the week are fun runs, a car rally, concerts and exhibitions.

In London a number of activities will centre around a children's hospice, including a treasure hunt and a party for families.

The hospice, Richard House in Beckton, is one of many organisations supported by the movement, which collects 20m for charity every year.

Handshake

One of the myths the Lodge is most eager to overcome is the belief that membership of the freemasons is closed.

Although openings to women are limited it says the movement accepts men of all races and religions.

The organisation says that far from being a secret society, freemasons are free to publicly acknowledge their membership.

And for those concerned about backroom business deals sealed with a secret handshake, the Lodge says it condemns members who use their connections to promote their business or personal interests.

See also:

12 Oct 00 | Scotland
22 May 00 | Wales
04 Aug 99 | UK
01 Feb 02 | Scotland
04 Apr 01 | Health
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