Report on visit to Bulgarian Supreme Council
21 to 25 August 2005
by Illustrious Jack Ball AM, 33°,
Sovereign Grand Commander,
Supreme Council of the Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite for Australia.
10 October, 2005
MP Bro Peter Kalpaktchiev, 33, Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council for Bulgaria accompanied by MIll Bro Petar Christov, 33, Grand Minister of State and MIll Bro Mladen Mutafchiisky, 33 attended the XVII World Conference of Sovereign Grand Commanders in Sydney, held 22-27 May, 2005.
Shortly thereafter, correspondence was received from Sovereign Grand Commander Kalpaktchiev requesting that the Supreme Council for Australia extend recognition to the Bulgarian Supreme Council. Correspondence was also received inviting me and V Ill Bro Bob Lions, 33, Grand Secretary General to visit Bulgaria.
In view of the request for recognition and the fact that we were visiting Germany for the 75th Anniversary of their Foundation, I agreed to make the visit following my visit to Berlin. Unfortunately, my Grand Secretary General was unable to accompany me.
Prior to my departure from Australia on 27th August 2005. I became aware that a number of decisions with consequences therefrom, placed the regularity of the Grand Lodge of AF&AM of Bulgaria and therefore the Supreme Council 33 of the AASR for Bulgaria in question
Accordingly, I made contact with the Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of NSW & ACT, MW Bro Ray Brooke and advised him of my proposed visit and its purpose. No objection was raised and the Grand Master requested a copy of my report following my visit.
On 15 August I confirmed my visit to the Bulgarian Supreme Council to their Sovereign Grand Commander. I advised him that in view of the regularity of both the Grand Lodge and the Supreme Council being called into question, that a meeting with both the Grand Lodge of AF&AM of Bulgaria and the United Grand Lodge of Bulgaria be arranged involving the Grand Masters of both organisations. This was agreed.
Finally an email was received 28 July, with subsequent emails, attaching correspondence dated 13th May 2005 from Bro Peter D Waters, a member of the United Grand Lodge of England (not a member of the Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite), extensively reporting on his understanding of Masonic affairs involving both Grand Lodges and the Supreme Council in Bulgaria. He also attached extracts from a letter to MW Bro Curtis N Lancaster, PGM, Secretary-Treasurer of the Commission on Information for Recognition, Conference of Grand Masters of Masons of North America dated 25 September 2001. In his letter he quoted various statements from the North American Recognition Committee
Report on visit to Bulgaria, — 21-25 August, 2005
MP Bro Peter Kalpaktchiev, 33, received me at the airport in Sofia, together with several Brethren including a young man, recently appointed as office manager who acted as interpreter for the whole of my visit. He is a university graduate who had previously been involved in interpreting. He is fluent in English.
Details of places, people met and functions attended are attached in Appendices A & B. It will be seen that I had the opportunity of meeting and talking to Brethren from
a. 10 Orients, Scottish Rite
b. 7 Craft Lodges
c. 8 Lodges of Perfection, 14
d. 2 Rose Croix Chapters, 18
e. 1 Council Kadosh, 30
f. 1 Consistory 32
totalling in excess of 100 Brethren.
Additionally, I met with the following Grand Officers, Grand Lodge of Bulgaria of AF&AM
a. Grand Master, Prof Dr Nicola Alexandrov, 32
b. Deputy Grand Masters Veselin Stefanov, 33
Stefan Shtarbanov, 32
c. Junior Grand Warden Volodya Kenarev, 32
d. Past Grand Secretary Spas Panchev, 32 (Deputy Minister of Defence)
together with the following civic dignitaries
3 members of the National Parliament
1 Deputy Mayor
all of whom are members of the Craft and all but one are members of the Scottish Rite.
During the visit, I was advised that a meeting with the Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of Bulgaria, MW Bro Penkov would be held at lunch on Saturday 24 September, 2005
At the lunch, I was advised that MW Bro Penkov had been offered meeting times on every day of my visit and had chosen the Saturday, 24th. Unfortunately, MW Bro Penkov tendered his apologies just before the lunch and advised that he was not available at any other time that day. An early departure by air on the next day prevented any other opportunity.
Significant dates relating to Bulgarian Masonry.(See Appendix C)
1992 saw the appearance of 6 Craft Lodges, including 3 chartered by the German Grand Lodge.
In 1996, talks resulted in the unification of 6 Lodges followed in 1997 by the Consecration of the Grand Lodge of AF&AM of Bulgaria. I shall refer to this Grand Lodge as “The Original Grand Lodge”.
In 2001, the Supreme Council 33 of the Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite for Bulgaria was consecrated under a Charter issued by the Southern Jurisdiction of Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite, USA.
This seems to have provoked an immediate and severe reaction among a number of Craft Masons in Bulgaria which resulted, some three months later in April 2001, in the consecration by the then Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of Germany, MW Bro Alfred Costka, of a second Grand Lodge with exactly the same name as the original one. Inevitably, ever since then, there seems to have been serious confusion as to who was who. I will refer to the second Grand Lodge as “The 2001 Body”.
In February 2004, the North American Recognition Commission concluded:- “Some confusion still exists within the Grand Lodge AF&AM of Bulgaria. The Grand Lodge practices Regular Masonry and meets the standards of recognition; however, two sets of Brethren claim to be the legitimate officers of this Grand Lodge. The latest information is that a large majority of the members have agreed to come together and recognise Bro Boris Sarendev as the Grand Master; to date the other Grand Master , Bro Roumen Raltchev has not accepted this.”
I should interpose that Bro Sarendev was the Grand Master of The 2001 Body and Bro Raltchev Grand Master of the Original Grand Lodge.
This conclusion resulted in The 2001 Body changing its name to the “United Grand Lodge of Bulgaria” on 26 November, 2004.
In February 2005 at its meeting in Calgary, Canada, the North American Commission for Recognition published on its website the following:-
Freemasonry in Bulgaria is still divided into two major Grand Lodges, however, progress is being made in the process of regularising a number of Masons that left the original Grand Lodge. The regular Grand Lodge is now known as the United Grand Lodge of Bulgaria and is the only Grand Lodge in Bulgaria that is considered to meet the standards for recognition. On November 27th, 2004, Bro Petyo Penkov was elected and installed as Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of Bulgaria.
This statement is significantly different from the 2004 conclusion, recognising now that there are two Grand Lodges, not one Grand Lodge with two sets of Brethren claiming to be the legitimate officers.
At a meeting on 22 September with the Grand Master, Bro Alexandrov and the Past Grand Secretary, Bro Spas Pantchev, I was advised that the position of the Original Grand Lodge was that they were dedicated to solving this unfortunate situation. The Grand Master stated that they had proposed that a commission be established to bring this into effect so that the interests of members of both Grand Lodges could be accommodated. He told me that his Grand Lodge would fully cooperate and that if the commission so found, that he would be prepared to stand down as Grand Master.
Information that I was given claimed that the Original Grand Lodge is still the larger of the
two Grand Lodges, having 24 lodges and more than 1100 members compared with The 2001 Body which has 14 lodges and about 800 members.
It was also claimed that both Grand Lodges worked almost identical rituals and that procedures were virtually the same.
The view was expressed that should the Commission be established with full cooperation from both Grand Lodges, the major difficulty would still centre around personalities and their attitude to Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite Masonry in Bulgaria.
I have attached to this report a current list of officers of the Original Grand Lodge together with details of the 24 Lodges under their banner. Also included are phone contacts for each officer with email addresses. The lists for Lodges states the name of the Lodge, its Orient (district), name of WM and Secretary, phone numbers and email addresses. (See Appendices D and E).
Finally, I have attached Appendices F, G and H which are maps of Bulgaria showing:-
F Lodges owing allegiance to the original Grand Lodge
G Scottish Rite bodies comprising Lodges of Perfection 14, Rose Croix Chapters 18, Councils Kadosh 30 and Consistories 32.
H Links between Scottish Rite and Lodges of the original Grand Lodge.
Firstly it must be stated that I only spent 5 days in Bulgaria, hardly sufficient to totally understand or confirm the facts and situation in the country.
However, I did travel extensively from almost the Western border to the East coast, and spent most time in the second largest city of Bulgaria, Varna, on the Black Sea. On the way I also visited Veliko Turnovo, the ancient capital, where I spent one night.
Accordingly, it seems possible to me that this whole struggle has been between those members of the Craft in Bulgaria who were dedicated, after a period of 3Ѕ years from the establishment of the original Grand Lodge, to establish Scottish Rite Masonry in their country, against those who believe that Bulgaria was not ready for Scottish Rite Masonry. They believed that Craft Masonry should not have competition from Scottish Rite and when it did, on 7 January 2001, they moved to make every effort to obstruct and if possible, to reverse its establishment.
Three months later, with the intervention of the United Grand Lodge of Germany, who gave them a charter, The 2001 Body was formed with exactly the same name, in order to cause confusion in World Masonry as to which was the regular Grand Lodge.
Much evidence exists that this plan worked well, and in particular I cite the decisions of the North American Commission for Recognition and the extensive letters and opinions from Peter D Waters who has corresponded with the Secretary of the Commission in order to induce a favourable decision for the 2001 body.
The 2001 Body, by its action in November last year, in changing its name to the “United Grand Lodge” further tilted the scales.
I believe that there is sufficient evidence to indicate that World Masonry should put on hold any decision already made, stop and research the position of Masonry in Bulgaria much more extensively. In particular, any decisions to withdraw regularity from the Original Grand Lodge and accordingly to declare the Supreme Council for Bulgaria to be irregular and all its members expelled from the Craft would effectively destroy the Bulgarian Supreme Council and Scottish Rite Masonry in that country..
If this were to occur, I believe that it would be a tragedy for Masonry worldwide. That it would give further ammunition to those who would make all appendant bodies subject to the permission of craft masonry. Above all, I believe it could cause serious damage to the very harmonious relations which have been developed over so many years between Craft Masonry and the Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite.
I am happy to expand further on any of the matters raised in this report or relating to the conclusions I have drawn.
MP Bro Jack Ball, AM,
33 Sovereign Grand Commander
Supreme Council of the Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite for Australia