Category Archives: Christianity

Vatican says trust in Church hurt by corruption scandal

Vatican tries to play down extent of scandal

Reuters | May 28, 2012

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY, May 28, (Reuters) – The Vatican, engulfed in the worst crisis in Pope Benedict’s papacy, on Monday denied Italian media reports that cardinals were suspects in an investigation into leaks of sensitive documents that led to the arrest of the pope’s butler.

But while denying the reports, which said the butler was merely a courier in a behind-the-scenes struggle for power in the Holy See, the Vatican acknowledged that the often sordid affair would test the faith of Catholics in their Church.

The scandal exploded last week when – within a few days – the head of the Vatican’s own bank was abruptly dismissed, the butler was arrested over leaks and a book was published alleging conspiracies among cardinals, the “princes of the Church”.

Documents leaked to journalists allege corruption in the Church’s vast financial dealings with Italian business.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told a news conference: “This is naturally something that can hurt the Church, and put trust in it and the Holy See to the test.”

Italian newspapers, quoting other whistle blowers in the Vatican, said the arrested butler was merely a scapegoat doing the bidding of more powerful figures, punished because the Church did not dare implicate cardinals behind the leaks.

“There are leakers among the cardinals but the Secretariat of State could not say that, so they arrested the servant, Paolo, who was only delivering letters on behalf of others,” La Repubblica quoted one leaker as saying.

The Secretariat of State is run by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the pope’s powerful right-hand man, and the scandal appears to involve a struggle between his allies and enemies, reminiscent of Renaissance conspiracies inside the Vatican.

It has been brewing for months, but since it burst into the open it has shaken the very heart of the Roman Catholic Church.

La Stampa daily quoted one of the alleged leakers as saying their goal was to help the pope root out corruption.

After an investigation inside the Holy See, the butler, Paolo Gabriele, 46, was charged on Saturday with stealing confidential papal documents. Leakers quoted by La Stampa, La Repubblica and other media said the leaking plot went much wider and higher.

Lombardi denied that any cardinal was being investigated for leaks. “I categorically deny that any cardinal, Italian or otherwise, is a suspect,” Lombardi said.

The pope was being kept fully informed of the case, Lombardi said: “He continues on his path of serenity, his position of faith and morals that is above the fray.”

BUTLER TO COOPERATE

One of Gabriele’s two lawyers, Carlo Fusco, said his client, who is being held inside a Vatican police station, would cooperate fully with investigators who are trying to track down other suspects.

He said Gabriele, who attended mass on Monday morning and was visited by his wife, was “very serene and tranquil.”

Critics of the pope say a lack of strong leadership has opened the door to infighting among his powerful aides – and potentially to the corruption alleged in the leaked documents.

Many Vatican insiders believe the butler, who had access to the pope’s private apartment, could not have acted alone. He is being held in a “safe room” in the Vatican police station and has been charged with aggravated theft.

Now known in Vatican statements as “the defendant” – he was until Wednesday night the quiet man who served the pope’s meals, helped him dress and held his umbrella on rainy days.

“I think this is a very serious moment it is a grave crisis because it has to do with the breach of trust in the inner circle of the Vatican,” said Robert Moynihan,” editor of the magazine Inside the Vatican.

“The pope cannot be sure that a document at his own desk isn’t going to be taken and photocopied. It seems that the person taking those documents has been discovered but there is a general feeling that this represents more than that, that there is someone else behind it,” Moynihan told Reuters television.

But Gianluigi Nuzzi, the Italian journalist who has received many of the documents over recent months and last week published his book “His Holiness”, criticised the focus on rounding up leakers, rather than rooting out the corruption they expose.

“Surely, arresting someone and rounding up people and treating them like delinquents to stop them from passing on true information to newspapers would cause an uproar in other countries,” he said. “There would be a petition to free them.”

WEED OUT CORRUPTION

While news of the butler’s arrest has filled newspapers in Italy and beyond, the Vatican’s own newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, has ignored the story. Some say this may be because the paper itself has been an instrument in the power struggle between Bertone’s allies and foes.

The Vatican’s announcement of the arrest of the butler came a day after the president of the Vatican bank, Italian Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, was fired after a no confidence vote by its board of external financial experts, who come from Germany, Spain, the United States and Italy.

Gotti Tedeschi’s ousting was a blow to Bertone, who as secretary of state was instrumental in bringing him in from Spain’s Banco Santander to run the Vatican bank in 2009.

The Vatican bank, officially known as the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR), was set up during World War II to manage the accounts of Vatican agencies, church organisations, bishops and religious orders.

It has been involved in financial scandals – most notably in 1982 when its then-president, Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, was indicted over the collapse of what was then Italy’s largest private bank, Banco Ambrosiano, with more than a billion dollars in debts. Banco Ambrosiano’s chairman Roberto Calvi was found hanged under London’s Blackfriar’s Bridge in 1984.

In September 2010, Italian investigators froze millions of euros in funds in Italian banks after opening a probe into money laundering involving IOR accounts, which the bank denies.

The Vatican is trying to make the IOR more transparent and join an international “white list” of countries that comply with international safeguards against money laundering and fraud. A decision is expected within months.

Documents leaked over the last few months included letters by an archbishop who was transferred to Washington by Bertone after blowing the whistle on what he saw as a web of corruption in a memo that put a number of cardinals in a bad light. Other documents alleged internal conflicts over the Vatican bank.

“I feel very sad for the pope. This whole thing is such a disservice to the Church,” said Carl Anderson, head of the Knights of Columbus charity group and a member of the board of the Vatican bank who voted to fire Gotti Tedeschi.

Anderson told Reuters Gotti Tedeschi was sacked because of “a fundamental failure to perform his basic responsibilities”. Gotti Tedeschi has said he was ousted because he wanted the bank to be more transparent, but Anderson rejected that assertion.

“Categorically, this action by the board had nothing to do with his promotion of transparency,” Anderson said. “In fact, he was becoming an obstacle to greater transparency by his inability to work with senior management.” (Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Barry Moody and Peter Graff)

Vatican scandal could expose more corruption

CBS | May 28, 2012

By Charlie D’Agata


Few believe the pope’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, is the sole source of leaks about the inner workings of the Catholic Church. (CBS News)

(CBS News) LONDON – A scandal that has rocked Vatican City threatened to expand Monday. So far, the only person under arrest is Pope Benedict XVI’s butler. But few believe that he is the sole source of the leaks that have exposed corruption and double-dealing inside the leadership of the Catholic Church.

At the center of the holy whodunit is Paolo Gabriele, the pope’s personal butler. Since he was arrested last week on suspicion of stealing confidential documents, rumors have swirled that he must have had some high-ranking help — perhaps as high as the so-called ‘princes of the Church,’ the cardinals.

Marco Tosatti covers the Vatican for one of Italy’s biggest newspapers. “If Paolo Gabriele acted as he did,” he said, “well, probably there was somebody very important who convinced him to do it.”

On Monday, the Vatican denied that any cardinal was under investigation.

But the scandal shows no sign of slowing. The butler pledged that he’d cooperate fully with investigators, raising the specter that he would name others.

Gabriele — a father of three — has worked for the Pope since 2006, and is one of the few layman to have access to the Pope’s private apartment.

He’s accused of leaking letters and memos to Italian journalists that allegedly show corruption in the Church’s financial dealings with Italian businesses, including money laundering and kickbacks.

The revelations are part of a number of embarrassing leaks that show the Church and its inner workings in disarray.

For the moment Paolo Gabriele is the lone arrest. If found guilty, he could face up to 30 years in prison.

Mystery deepens around Vatican scandals

Globe and Mail | May 28, 2012

by ERIC REGULY

ROME — The rapid-fire ouster of the chief of the Vatican bank and the arrest of the Pope’s butler have plunged the Vatican into yet another crisis. Were the two events connected?

Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, president of the Vatican bank, formally known as the Institute for Works of Religion, was fired last Thursday for a variety of alleged sins, including “progressively erratic behaviour,” by the bank’s board of superintendence. Two days later, Paolo Gabriele, Pope Benedict’s butler since 2006, was arrested for the unauthorized possession of sensitive Vatican documents.

The firing and the arrest have, at least on the surface, plunged the Vatican into one of its worst crises since Benedict became pontiff in 2005, only to find himself scrambling to clean up the church’s sexual-abuse mess.

But sources close to the Vatican say that while last week’s events were embarrassing to Benedict, they are evidence that he is working hard to clean up the Vatican bank and other nooks and crannies within the church’s Rome headquarters.

“Transparency is the issue,” said a Vatican source, who did not want to be named. “He wants the bank to be clean.”

The Vatican’s media office insists there is no link between the firing of Mr. Tedeschi, who is a former executive of Santander, Spain’s most successful bank, and Mr. Gabriele. But both men are accused of at least one similar offence – leaking documents.

Mr. Gabriele was formally charged with stealing confidential papal documents and passing them to the news media. Some of the documents obtained by the Italian press in the so-called “Vatileaks” scandal reportedly related to the Vatican bank’s halting efforts to comply with international standards to fight money laundering and terrorist financing.

Many of the documents found their way to Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi whose book, Your Holiness: The Secret Papers of Benedict XVI, was published shortly before the ouster of Mr. Tedeschi.

Among the nine allegations made in support of Mr. Tedeschi’s firing was his “failure to provide any formal explanation for the dissemination of documents last know to be in the President’s possession,” according to the two-page, no-confidence resolution written by Carl Anderson, a member of the bank’s board of superintendence, and obtained by The Globe and Mail.

The Vatican is investigating the leaks that created turmoil within the its ranks since last year. The Italian news media have suggested that the leaks are part of a power struggle designed to discredit Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Benedict’s right-hand man and head of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.

The Vatican source suggested that Italian banks might be exploiting the leaks related to the Vatican bank itself. He noted that the banks would love to pick up some of the Vatican bank’s activities, should scandal force it to shrink. “Italian banks might be trying to discredit [the Vatican bank] in order to get its business,” he said.

The Vatican bank has its roots in the 1800s and came into its present form in 1942, under Pope Pius II. The secretive bank manages billions of euros in assets, including the Vatican’s vast portfolio of real estate and other investments. At times, it has been run by a professional chief executive plucked from the banking industry, and reports to a committee of cardinals who in turn report to the pope.

The bank is no stranger to scandal or political controversy. John Cornwell, one of the leading authorities on Benedict’s predecessor, John Paul II, wrote in his book The Pontiff In Winter, that there are “indications” the Vatican bank funnelled $50-million (U.S.) to Lech Walesa’s Solidarity movement in Poland in the early 1980s. Mr. Cornwell cited rumours that the delivery man was Roberto Calvi, the Banco Ambrosiano chairman who was found hanged under London’s Blackfriars Bridge in 1982.

Mr. Calvi was called “God’s Banker” because of his close association with the Vatican bank and its boss, Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, who was known as the “Pope’s Gorilla” for his tough mannerisms. The Vatican was implicated in Ambrosiano’s fraudulent bankruptcy in 1982. Without admitting any wrongdoing, the Vatican paid $240-million to compensate Ambrosiano’s account holders.

Mr. Tedeschi was hired in 2009 to modernize the Vatican bank and make it transparent to the point it would comply with international banking standards. The bank’s goal was to make the “white list” of states that comply with the transparency requirements set out by the Organization for Economic Development and Co-operation. They are designed to fight tax evasion, money laundering and financing of terrorism.

The need to clean up the bank was highlighted in 2010, when Italian prosecutors, on suspicion of money-laundering violations, seized €23-million ($29-million U.S.) from a Rome bank account registered to the Vatican bank.

In an interview with Reuters, Mr. Anderson, the Vatican bank board member, said Mr. Tedeschi was ousted because he “was becoming an obstacle to greater transparency by his inability to work with senior management.”

On Monday, the Vatican denied Italian media reports that a cardinal was among suspects in the leaked documents’ scandals. The Vatican source, however, said that more arrests in the Vatileaks affair might be coming.

Vatican forced to deny senior cardinal is mastermind of Vatileaks scandal


Paolo Gabriele, front left, has worked for Benedict XVI for five years Photo: EPA

The Vatican has been forced to deny that a senior cardinal is the mastermind behind the so-called Vatileaks scandal that has seen the Pope’s personal butler arrested.

Telegraph | May 28, 2012

By Nick Pisa, Rome

Father Federico Lombardi, the Pope’s official spokesman, was forced to speak out after several Italian newspapers claimed that the brains of the operation – where potentially embarrassing Vatican documents found their way into the Italian press – was an unidentified “prince of the church.”

Speculation has continued to gather pace that senior Church figures are behind the leaking of sensitive Vatican documents and that butler Paolo Gabriele, who has worked for Benedict XVI for five years, is nothing more than a scapegoat. Gabriele was arrested last week after documents were found inside his Vatican apartment.

Several Italian newspaper carried an interview with an anonymous whistle-blower who explained why the documents were being leaked.

“There’s a group of us: the real brains behind it are cardinals, then there are monsignors, secretaries, small fry”, the informer said.

“The valet is just a delivery boy that somebody wants to set up. Vatican intelligence has security systems more advanced than anything the CIA has but cardinals are still in the habit of writing their messages by hand and dictating them.

“It’s open warfare, with everyone against everyone else. Those doing it are acting to protect the Pope.”

He added: “There are those opposed to the Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone. And those who think that Benedict XVI is too weak to lead the church. And those who think that this is the time to step forward. So it’s become everyone against everyone.”

The source also explained how Benedict had gathered a select group of five people to act as his eyes and ears within the Vatican “to protect himself”.

Within hours of the interview being published Father Lombardi issued a denial categorically stating “no cardinal was involved and no one else is under investigation.”

Elsewhere Cardinal Robert Sarah, 67, head of the Pontifical Council Cor Um, which handles church missions around the world was the first senior figure within the Curia to speak out about the scandal.

“Let’s hope that the arrest of the butler is an isolated case and that there are no other traitors plotting in the Vatican,” he said. “There is much sadness. It is painful to see someone like the Holy Father betrayed by someone who is so close to him.

“However it would be even more serious if other accomplices came to light. That’s why we must let the magistrates investigate fully to clarify this shocking situation and until then nothing can be excluded including a plot or some other guided hand.”

Catholic priest defrocked for child sex abuse hired by the TSA at Philadelphia airport


Harkins, once a Catholic priest in churches across South Jersey, now works as a TSA supervisor in Philadelphia. philadelphia.cbslocal.com

Thomas Harkins accused of sexually abusing 11-year-old girl in new lawsuit

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS | May 26, 2012

By Rheana Murray

A Catholic priest removed from the ministry ten years ago for sexually abusing young girls has found another job — with the TSA.

Thomas Harkins, once a priest at churches throughout South Jersey, now works as a TSA supervisor at the Philadelphia International Airport, CBS Philly reports.

He was forced to leave the church in 2002, when the Diocese of Camden found him guilty of sexually abusing two young girls.

Now, a third alleged victim has come forward, according to the station.

In a new lawsuit, Harkins is accused of sexually abusing an 11-year-old girl as many as 15 times between 1980 and 1981. One of the alleged incidents occurred in Harkins’ bedroom at the rectory of Saint Anthony of Padua parish in Hammonton, N.J, where Harkins worked at the time.

CBS Philly tracked Harkins down at the airport to ask if the public should be concerned about his past.

Ex-priest accused of child sex abuse gets job with TSA

Priest defrocked for child sex abuse now works for TSA, report says

Thomas Harkin, Former Catholic Priest Accused Of Sex Abuse, Now Works For TSA

“No, they should not be worried,” Harkins said. “I have nothing to say.”

But Karen Polesir, a spokeswoman for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) isn’t so tight-lipped.

“They should know who they are hiring,” Polesir told CBS Philly.

“As the public, we are screened to our underwear getting on a plane, and yet they hire a man like that.”

Polesir doesn’t buy into a TSA official’s reassurance that Harkins works mostly with luggage — not people — as a Transportation Security Manager in baggage.

“Sure, that’s his title,” she said. “That doesn’t mean that’s where he stays, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t fill other roles when necessary.”

Because the sexual abuse cases were so old, and the lawsuits were settled with the accusers, criminal charges were never filed against Harkins, which is why nothing registered when the TSA ran a background check, according to the station.

Missing girl buried in murdered mobster’s tomb was kidnapped for Vatican sex parties


Emanuela Orlandi, 15, went missing in Rome in 1983. Pietro Orlandi, Emanuela’s brother said it was time for the Vatican to come clean about what it knows of Emanuela’s disappearance

Daily Mail | May 22, 2012

By Nick Pisa

The Catholic Church’s leading exorcist priest has sensationally claimed a missing schoolgirl thought to be buried in a murdered gangster’s tomb was kidnapped for Vatican sex parties.

Father Gabriel Amorth, 85, who has carried out 70,000 exorcisms, spoke out as investigators continued to examine mobster Enrico De Pedis’s tomb in their hunt for Emanuela Orlandi.

Last week police and forensic experts broke into the grave after an anonymous phone call to a TV show said the truth about Emanuela’s 1983 disappearance would be ‘found there’.

And although bones not belonging to the mobster were recovered they have not yet been positively identified as hers.

However Father Amorth, in an interview with La Stampa newspaper, said: ‘This was a crime with a sexual motive.

‘It has already previously been stated by (deceased) monsignor Simeone Duca, an archivist at the Vatican, who was asked to recruit girls for parties with the help of the Vatican gendarmes.

‘I believe Emanuela ended up in this circle. I have never believed in the international theory (overseas kidnappers). I have motives to believe that this was just a case of sexual exploitation.

‘It led to the murder and then the hiding of her body. Also involved are diplomatic staff from a foreign embassy to the Holy See.’

Today there was no immediate response from the Vatican to Father Amorth’s claims.

But Vatican officials insisted they had always co-operated with the investigation into Orlandi’s disappearance – a claim that her brother has often disputed.

Father Amorth is a colourful figure who in the past has also denounced yoga and Harry Potter as the ‘work of the Devil’. He was appointed by the late Pope John Paul II as the Vatican’s chief exorcist.

It is not the first time Father Amorth has raised eyebrows with his forthright views – two years ago he said sex scandals rocking the Catholic Church were evidence ‘the Devil was at work in the Vatican.’

In 2006, Father Amorth, who was ordained a priest in 1954, gave an interview to Vatican Radio in which he said Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and Russian dictator Josef Stalin were possessed by the Devil.

According to secret Vatican documents recently released the then wartime Pope Pius XII attempted a ‘long distance exorcism’ of Hitler but it failed to have any effect.

Charismatic mobster De Pedis, leader of a murderous gang known as the Banda della Magliana, was gunned down aged just 38, by members of his outfit after they fell out.

Detectives investigating the disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi, 15, in 1983, believe De Pedis is linked to her kidnap and the body of the Vatican employee’s daughter has never been found.

Last month the diocese of Rome, on orders from the Vatican, granted investigators permission to open up the tomb in the Sant’Apollinare basilica close to Piazza Navona in the centre of Rome.

At the time of his funeral there were raised eyebrows when despite his criminal past church chiefs allowed De Pedis to be buried in the crypt of Sant’Apollinare.

At the time it was said the burial was given the go ahead because prison chaplain Father Vergari told bishops that De Pedis had ‘repented while in jail and also done a lot of work for charity,’ including large donations to the Catholic Church.

De Pedis, whose name on the £12,000 tomb is spelt in diamonds, was buried in Sant’Apollinare church after he was gunned down in 1990 in the city’s famous Campo De Fiori.

He and his gang controlled the lucrative drug market in Rome and were also rumoured to have a ‘free hand’ because of their links with police and Italian secret service agents.

The disappearance of Orlandi reads like the roller coaster plot of a Dan Brown Da Vinci Code thriller with a touch of The Godfather thrown in for good measure.

Twelve years ago a skull was found in the confessional box of a Rome church and tests were carried out on it to see if it was Orlandi after a mystery tip off but they proved negative.

In 2008 Sabrina Minardi, De Pedis girlfriend at the time of Orlandi’s disappearance, sensationally claimed that now dead American monsignor Paul Marcinkus, the controversial chief of the Vatican bank, was behind the kidnap.

Monsignor Marcinkus used his status to avoid being questioned by police in the early 1980’s probing the collapse of a Banco Ambrosiano which the Vatican had invested heavily in.

The collapse was linked to the murder of Roberto Calvi dubbed God’s Banker because of the Vatican links and his body was found hanging under Blackfriars Bridge in London in June 1982.

His pockets filled with cash and stones and it was originally recorded as a suicide but police believe he was murdered by the Mafia after a bungled money laundering operation.

At the same time as Minardi made her claim a mystery caller to a missing person’s programme on Italian TV said the riddle of Orlandi’s kidnap would be solved ‘if De Pedis tomb was opened’.

Following Minardi claims the Vatican took the unusual step of speaking publicly and dismissed her claims about American Monsignor Marcinkus, who died in Arizona four years ago.

Kilwinning Abbey: Home to the Knights Templar and birthplace of the Freemasons


Kilwinning Abbey in Scotland, Masonic HQ also Templars’ HQ.  Image: Wikimedia Commons

Freemasonry’s mysterious symbols and rituals were developed in secret in Kilwinning, nearly 200 years before the movement was officially founded.

Sun | Apr 25, 2012

by Michael Schofield –

Glasgow – HUNKY historian Ashley Cowie has been taking Scottish Sun readers on an Indiana Jones-style adventure all this week.

The TV star — whose worldwide hit telly show Legend Quest hit Britain this week on the satellite channel SyFy — has been unravelling the biggest Scottish mysteries of all time.

Today, in part four of our exclusive series, Ashley goes on a search of Biblical proportions . . .

LOOKING through my binoculars I scanned the countryside for clues to the location of one of the most sacred mountains mentioned in the Bible.

No, I wasn’t in Jerusalem — but the quaint Ayrshire town of Kilwinning.

Now before you think I should be searching for my lost marbles instead of lost treasures, I can explain…

The story begins at the end of the 12th century when the infamous Knights Templar, a highly-trained military order who fought in the Holy Land during the Crusades, returned to Europe.

With their military presence no longer required they remained powerful as bankers and money lenders and many of Europe’s dynasties were indebted to them.

To wipe out his debts to the Templars, King Phillip of France hatched a plot to destroy them.

Backed by the Pope, on the evening of Friday 13th of October, 1307, Templars were arrested all over France and charged with heresy. That earned Friday the 13th its place in superstition for being unlucky — it certainly was if you were being burned at the stake!

But when the Templars’ vaults in Paris were raided, they were found to be completely empty.

The order had been tipped off and moved their gold, silver, gems and sacred relics to a safe place.

Many Templars fled to Portugal and Spain but legend claims they shipped the bulk of their treasures to Scotland where they found safety with their kilted brother Knights led by Robert the Bruce.

But in his brilliant book Born in Blood, American historian John J. Robinson found evidence that the Knights Templar sought refuge with the monks of Kilwinning who lived in the Abbey.

By the late 13th century there were around 600 Templar properties throughout Scotland.

But by far the greatest concentration of them was in Ayrshire around Stevenson, Irvine and Kilwinning.

Kilwinning, with its domineering 12th century Abbey and tower, has a rich history with several valuable relics taken there for safe keeping.

Recently, historian Jamie Morton, from Ayrshire, presented new evidence that made Kilwinning a focus of Grail Seekers by claiming the legendary artefact used by Christ at The Last Supper is hidden in a chamber beneath Kilwinning.

While the old Mercat Cross in the Main Street is said to contain part of the cross on which Jesus was crucified. But there are also clues that Kilwinning is the location of Heredom — the sacred Biblical mountain.

The meaning of the word Heredom is greatly argued upon in Masonic circles, while it also appears in the Bible as the name of a mystical holy mountain.

But it can also mean ‘New Temple’.

That’s why I believe Heredom may not actually be a mountain but a secret Knights Templar HQ.

In 1747 French naval officer Chevalier de Berage wrote about the origins of Freemasonry: “Their Metropolitan Lodge is situated on the Mountain of Heredom where the first Lodge was held in Europe.

“The General Council is still held there and it is the seal of the Sovereign Grand Master in office.

“This mountain is situated between the West and North of Scotland at 60 miles from Edinburgh.” Well, guess what? When I measured the distance between Edinburgh and Kilwinning on my ordnance survey map, the distance was EXACTLY 60 miles.

What’s more, not only was Kilwinning, home to Scottish Templars, but it was the womb of another shadowy secret society which has become the focus of many conspiracy theories around the world — the Freemasons.

Masonic records confirm that Kilwinning Lodge is known as Mother Lodge No 0.

This means Freemasonry’s mysterious symbols and rituals were developed in secret in Kilwinning, nearly 200 years before the movement was officially founded in London by Grand Lodge England in 1717. But this is only scratching the surface of Kilwinning’s mysteries. Another secretive movement within Freemasonry is called the Royal Order of Scotland.

Masonic traditions tell that King Robert the Bruce established the Chief Seat of the Royal Order of Scotland at Kilwinning, reserving the office of Grand Master to himself and his successors.

Entry is restricted to Freemasons and candidates must undergo two highly secretive rites of initiation named ‘Heredom of Kilwinning’ and ‘Knight Of The Rosy Cross’.

It has always intrigued me that for centuries the unsuspecting little town of Kilwinning was and is STILL the heart and brain of such a powerful secret society.

But having relentlessly searched the landscapes around the Ayrshire town there is no mountain which the legends could refer to. So it must relate to this secret Templars HQ. But if so, where is it? Well all over Europe and the Holy Land the Knights Templar built tunnel networks connecting their holy buildings with their castles and farms, and they are believed to have dug extensive tunnels beneath Kilwinning Abbey.

Locals talk of a tunnel leading from Kilwinning Abbey for about two miles which terminates at Eglington Castle near Irvine.

And there’s even a living eye witness. In 2009, Kilwinning pensioner, Tommy Lauchlan told how he was once shown a secret tunnel near the Abbey.

He said: “I was just a wee boy but there were tenement houses on the site of the Abbey and Mrs Longmuir’s kitchen kept a secret.

“Behind her dresser was a door and this led to a tunnel, I just had a look down, but her boys were convinced it led to Eglinton Castle.”

Having inspected the Abbey grounds, I recently walked the landscape following the tunnel’s alleged route.

I found several straight depressions running through fields which could indicate the presence of a subterranean tunnel created by the Templars.

I would call on the authorities to give me permission to perform a proper archaeological dig.

Maybe, lying inside these ancient passageways for the last 700 years are the lost Templar treasures, taken from vaults in Paris in 1307.

See Also:

Kilwinning Abbey

Oldest Masonic Lodge