Everyone enjoys a good mystery story and that is exactly what the companions of Senatores Chapter of Installed First Principals No 8966 were treated to when first principal Geoffrey Pritchard, second principal Trevor Drabble and third principal Anthony Hough welcomed Dr Mike Kearsley as their guest speaker at the chapter’s November meeting at the Masonic Hall, Cleveleys. Mike hails originally from Blackburn, in the ‘other’ Province, but then emigrated to New Zealand as a teacher. He now lives in Middlesex where he is the Provincial Orator. He was also Prestonian Lecturer for 2014.
As might be predicted then, the chapter members were bubbling with expectation; anticipating an interesting and informative presentation. Mike did not disappoint with his description of The Roberto Calvi Affair. The events in the 1980’s in Italy and London which culminated in Calvi’s body being found hanging under Blackfriars Bridge, London (with his clothing stuffed with bricks and carrying around $15,000 worth of cash in three different currencies).
With Calvi’s death came the collapse of his Banco Ambrosiano Bank of Milan – leaving a black hole of over $1,000,000,000. Some $250,000,000 of this belonged to the Vatican bank under the infamous Chicago born Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, while some were assets belonging to certain dubious characters and groups that it was certainly better not to annoy!
A full house was in attendance for the talk, including a galaxy of local dignitaries. Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals David Randerson, Past Deputy Grand Superintendent Stephen Reid, Past Second Provincial Grand Principal Terry Hudson and many other grand officers had arrived to listen to Mike’s address, along with Blackpool Group Chairman John Turpin, North Fylde Group Chairman Duncan Smith and their vice chairmen David Cook and Peter Greathead. Mike’s reputation as an orator had gone before him.
Mike began by setting the scene of Italian Freemasonry by describing the situation which led to the formation of the first Grand Lodge in Italy – the Grande Oriente – in 1805, and the troubled history of the times. Politics, intrigue, revolution and crime were never far away from those early Masons. Mike took his audience through this troubled history and the formation, within it, of a notorious lodge – the infamous P2 lodge, with its powerful and very dangerous master Licio Gelli.
Under Gelli’s control the lodge and its members became involved in much un-Masonic behaviour – indeed the lodge never actually operated as a Masonic lodge at all. It had been struck off from the register years before and Gelli specifically expelled from Freemasonry. Unfortunately, this had no effect on Gelli or the lodge. They continued as if nothing had happened.
Calvi’s death – first rather humorously described as a suicide – opened a can of worms which exposed what the lodge’s 962 members had been involved in and thus paved the way for the most outrageous allegations from the press at the time – including Opus Dei, the Illuminati, the Mafia, the Vatican, UGLE and even such characters as Richard Nixon and Silvio Berlusconi. Even more shockingly a further 121 members were Cardinals, Bishops and senior prelates – including the Pope’s private secretary.
Mike had the whole room fascinated as the story unfolded and moved to the final, tragic end. Will we ever know the full truth? Probably not! But thanks to Mike, members of Senatores Chapter of Installed First Principals all became aware of so much more of the story and its implications for Freemasonry throughout the 1980’s and even to the present day. It certainly made them thankful that they are in the Province of West Lancashire and under the auspices of United Grand Lodge of England. It also made the strong lesson that we must be very careful who we allow into Freemasonry – and who we must keep out!