The decision to hold a Catholic Mass intended to promote unity at the U.S.-Canada border in an auditorium built and funded by a global Freemasonic group has sparked controversy. The International Field Mass, which began in 1960 as a gesture of solidarity between the Knights of Columbus in North Dakota and Manitoba, Canada, has traditionally been held at the International Peace Garden, a large park on the border of the two countries.

The 2023 Mass is scheduled for July 9 in the Masonic Auditorium within the park. This auditorium, capable of seating around 2,000 people, is designed in the form of the Masonic square and compass logo. It was built as a collaborative project of the Masonic Grand Lodges of Manitoba and North Dakota and serves as the meeting place for the Peace Garden Lodge of Freemasons’ annual Masonic meetings.

The choice of the Masonic Auditorium as the venue for the Mass has raised eyebrows, given the Catholic Church’s long-standing prohibition on Catholic involvement in Masonic organizations. The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal society, was established in 1882 as a direct Catholic alternative to Masonic lodges. The Church has consistently taught that Freemasonry’s religious nature is fundamentally opposed to Christianity and has described Masonic lodges as “societies which plot against the Church.”

The Catholic Church still considers it a canonical crime for a Catholic to become a Mason, and penalties are in place for those who do so. This includes the recently revised Book VI of the Code of Canon Law, promulgated by Pope Francis in 2021. The Church’s canon law also stipulates that Mass “is to be carried out in a sacred place unless in a particular case necessity requires otherwise; in such a case the celebration must be done in a decent place.”

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