Vatican punishes French priest for being a Freemason

Father Pascal Vesin outside his church in Megeve, 24 May Father Pascal Vesin is seen outside his church in Megeve on Friday

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A Roman Catholic parish priest at an elite French ski resort has been stripped of his Church functions for refusing to renounce Freemasonry.

Father Pascal Vesin was ordered by his bishop to cease his work in the Alpine resort of Megeve, the parish said.

Bishop Yves Boivineau had warned Fr Vesin about his "active membership" of the Grand Orient de France lodge.

Freemasonry has been condemned as anti-Christian and anti-clerical by various popes through history.

Bishop Boivineau ordered the priest to cease his functions "at Rome's request", the parish said.

In March, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - effectively the Church's watchdog - asked for the priest's departure.

Three members of the diocese of Annecy then met him but Fr Vesin said he would not leave the lodge.

A statement from the diocese quoted by Le Figaro newspaper stressed that the penalty imposed on the Freemason priest was not final and could yet be lifted because "mercy goes hand in hand with truth".

Fr Vesin has been parish priest of Sainte-Anne d'Arly Montjoie in Megeve since 2004, according to another French newspaper, Le Messager.

In an interview in January, he set out liberal views of the Church's role. He said he favoured allowing some priests to marry and said he had refused to endorse a demonstration against same-sex marriage in Paris.

Conspiracy theories and controversy have dogged the Freemasons throughout their existence, fuelled by their secretive image, though for some they are just a gentleman's club devoted to charitable giving.

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