More emerges about Bugnini as a Freemason

At LifeSite there is a piece by Peter Kwasniewski which lays out new evidence which has turned up about the late Archbp. Annibale Bugnini being a Freemason.

As you probably know, Bugnini played a role in the 1955 Holy Week changes and a huge role in the “reforms” forced on the Roman Rite during and after the Second Vatican Council.  He eventually became Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

Peter’s piece can speak for itself.  You should read it.

Here, however, I’ll relate something that I am not sure I’ve written here before.

Suddenly, in 1976, Paul VI took Bugnini out of Congregation for Divine Worship and, even though he had no diplomatic background, sent him to be Nuncio to Iran.   People wonder to this day what precipitated such an odd move.  In any event, Bugnini went to Tehran.  Promoveatur ut amoveatur.

Back in the day one of the venerable figures of the Roman Curia, who had been around since the preparatory phases before Vatican II, told me an amusing story about Bugnini.

He said that, back in the day, when the Ayatollah Khomeini took over in Iran, he summoned the diplomats to himself and made them kneel down. Apparently, as my friend related, Bugnini did it! As the story goes he knelt to Khomeini. When the tale got back to Rome the wags quipped that Bugnini was doing in Iran the genuflections that he removed from the Mass.

True story? Not sure.  This guy had amazing tales!

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  1. philosophicallyfrank says:

    I don’t know whether it was true or not; but, many years ago, I read that Bugnini was removed from the group that was tasked with implementing “Sacrosanctum Concilium” ; but, later he was returned to the task. There was no explanation for either action.
    This should be all the reason needed to end the Novis Orde/Ordinary form of the Mass and return to the Tridentine Mass with the changes called for in “Sacrosanctum Concilium” implemented. For a half century we have been offering to Jesus a Masonic Mass. It seems that we should be offering Him the best that we can not the worst. We need to return to offering Jesus a holy, reverent Mass with Him as the unquestioned focus. Jesus told us that He would send us the “Paraclete” and “Sacrosanctum Concilium” is the influence of the “Paraclete/Holy Spirit”.
    Our church (small “c”) and our country are in trouble and maybe those troubles can be reversed by giving Jesus the reverence and adoration that He, as Jesus the Christ, should be given.

  2. Fr_Sotelo says:

    This gossip about Bugnini being a Freemason has been around for many decades. One thing is consistent about the rumors–they all originate from people who have problems or protests with the Ordinary Form of the Mass. No bishop, no scholar, no reputable historian, who is at peace with the OF Mass or Vatican II, has ever repeated these rumors.

    So why repeat rumors about a man who has been dead for 40 years? Who is unknown to most of the Church now? In my opinion, the Bugnini legends circulate as part of the 1) agenda behind discrediting the Ordinary Form of the Mass as truly Catholic, and 2) discrediting Vatican II as having had a legitimate authority to reform the Mass and the Sacraments.

    I read the article and saw no historical evidence beyond rumor and the tired canard of, “This person, of great importance, said this to so and so, who shared it with me.”

    It is excusable to invent sources, from gossip and innuendo, about a person who lived in the distant past. But Bugnini died in 1982. There are plenty of Freemasons in Italy, alive and kicking, who could come forward and give credible evidence about the Masonic Lodge which Bugnini belonged to, and his activities there.

    And in the Masonic agenda to discredit the Catholic Church, when did the Masons ever keep secrets about an archbishop that would be damning to the Church? What exactly did the Masons tell Bugnini to do to the Mass? Promote universal brotherhood? Quoting “Love one another” from the Gospel of Christ is also about brotherhood. Perhaps the Masons hated lace and fiddlebacks? Well, their own costumes and rituals don’t show that the Masons hate ceremonial.

    And that is where we have to be careful, I think, about the sin of calumny. It is not enough to repeat the “talk” about Bugnini the Freemason. As Christians, I believe we owe it to our own Tradition to withhold accusations unless we have first source materials on which to base the accusations. That would certainly include any fellow Masons in Italy who are willing to be interviewed and to show correspondence or materials that indicate Bugnini’s participation in a Masonic Lodge.

  3. JustaSinner says:

    Free Masonry is so watered down today, as a Catholic you don’t have to stomp on the little plastic tiara crown of the Pope to show your allegiance against hegemony or against the Pope. They just let it slide, you pass the Scottish Rites and cruise right into the Shriners.

    [Not in Italy! Noooooo.]

  4. ChrisP says:

    Fr Sotelo:
    The most convincing argument I have heard came from the late Michael Davies. When pressed about whether Bugnini really WAS a mason, he replied “I’m not saying he was or wasn’t, but I am saying that Pope Paul VI honestly thought he was”. Davies had spent the previous 45 min providing evidence that clearly proved Paul VI thought just that by 1976.

  5. Fr_Sotelo says:


    I’ve read Davies’s take on Bugnini. He was no fan of the archbishop, for sure. But I never saw him produce a witness.

    As for St. Paul VI, do you really believe that he allowed a Mason to continue offering Mass and sacraments as a Catholic bishop? The Masons of Bugnini’s generation were not believing Catholics. In fact, being a Mason would make Bugnini an excommunicated and suspended.

    But we are to believe that St. Paul VI allowed an excommunicated and suspended man to represent the Vatican to Iran?

    Did the Pope himself have no respect for the Faith? Did he have no belief in the priesthood? He just allowed Bugnini to offer sacrilegious Mass and sacraments–as if all was “business as usual”? If people want to believe that, fine. But it’s quite demonic of a Pope to allow such a thing and I need to have more than “According to so and so, they knew for a fact that the rumors were true.”

  6. JonPatrick says:

    Interesting points by Fr. Sotelo. To me all this arguing over Bugnini and Freemasonry is as pointless as some of the recent social media discussions on whether the Novus Ordo is valid. The fact is, the way it was introduced as a radical change rather than organic development was a huge mistake. But it is what it is and for many of us in flyover country it is the only mass we have access to and we consider ourselves lucky if we can have one done reverently by a priest who does the red and says the black. Particularly now with the Wuhan virus making access to the sacraments even harder. As a 71 year old I know I will never see a wholesale return to the Mass of the Ages. I can only hope that it happens in my children’s lifetime

  7. Imrahil says:

    But we are to believe that St. Paul VI allowed an excommunicated and suspended man to represent the Vatican to Iran? Did the Pope himself have no respect for the Faith? Did he have no belief in the priesthood? He just allowed Bugnini to offer sacrilegious Mass and sacraments–as if all was “business as usual”?

    Rev’d Fr Sotelo,

    well, he wouldn’t have allowed it. According to the theory, he would have tolerated it, which is quite another thing and may be wrong but not demonic.

    So, I am completely cueless about whether Abp Bugnini or anyone else for the matter was a Freemason. But one thing I am sure about and that is that, in itself, sending a Freemason who is (already!) a Catholic archbishop as Nuncio to Persia where he can do no harm (and some notable good, as, I believe in this case) is, totally, something quite in character with what Pope St. Paul VI would have done.

    Assume some Freemason appeared, in the 1970s, in the Catholic hierarchy. I’m not saying that Abp Bugnini was, but there’s no denying it’s a theoretical possibility. Would anyone suggest that the Pope would be fine with it? Cardinal König might (though that might be a rumour); but not Pope St. Paul VI. Would, on the other hand, anyone suggest that for Pope St. Paul VI., finding this one man would result in finally falling back to the “old ways” of throwing about excommunications, searching for heretics, and harbouring a McCarthyish fear of Freemasons (as it was perceived in the public) – the very thing the traditionalists had for years been calling for? “Admittedly, those guys [the traditionalists] were right in this one thing – there is danger from that side also”, we can imagine him saying, but would the consequence be, as he would see it, to surrender to “those guys” entirely? After all he was doing?

    No, he would believe: “We have to follow the middle path; we can’t change course just because – which I do have to admit – there is danger from that side too.” Add to that the assumption that the bishop is bishop no matter what anyway (to agree to make him bishop would be a rather different thing), so, he’ll call him into his office, give him a telling-down, ask him to repent, maybe lift the censures privately (being Pope) so as to remove that reason for sin, not quite inquire whether he actually repents, send him off to a diplomatic post he considers unimportant but which does require an archbishop (the nuncioship to Iran would become important in 1979, but that wasn’t known in 1975), and say: “Please please don’t make a scandal.” He would of course be aware that he might fall back into Freemasonry, but as for that, and as for celebrating Masses etc. after doing so (again), he’d think: “It’s his sin, not mine.”

    So, that’s how Pope St. Paul VI would have reacted if he found out that a close associate of archepiscopal rank was a Freemason. Nor is such a course manifestly sinful: obviously I don’t think his opposition to traditionalists (going together, admittedly, with opposition to very radical modernizers also) was right in the first place – but if we do grant him his principal guidelines, such a piece of Papal realpolitik towards troublesome (and “the wrong kind of troublesome”) curial archbishops would not be manifestly sinful.

    Of course, I am only saying that Pope St. Paul VI would have reacted to Abp Bugnini being a Freemason as he did act to Abp Bugnini in history; not that he was one.

  8. RosaryRose says:

    FrSoleto, yes we need proof. I pray the Holy Spirit reveals what we need, sending knowledge, wisdom, understanding and fortitude, if it is His will. May we have proof for the salvation of souls.

    You ask questions that have a million possibilities. We may never know those answers.
    Would Bugnini have gone to a lodge? He wouldn’t have to. Would Paul IV send an excommunicated and suspended man to Iran? David sent Bathsheba’s husband to war. Maybe he thought If he is innocent, God will protect him. Possibly he had other objectives for the changes and didn’t want a smear on Bugnini.

    A million possibilities.

    By their fruits you shall know them.

    FrSoleto, you say the Ordinary form is truly Catholic. It is the same as the Episcopal service. I heard it during the Covid lockdown. My mother in law was attending virtual service. Are they Catholic or are we Protestant? They have altar rails.

    The mystery of our Catholic Faith is that our priests consecrate bread and wine into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. No other faith does that. The mystery of our truly Catholic Faith is
    – Jesus is here on the altar before us (and He will come again)
    – Jesus is here Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity (and He will come again)

    That is a mystery: He is really here and He will come again. That would cause conversations, questions, catechism, maybe conversions! Imagine children asking “Mom, how can Jesus be here and He will come again?” If the congregation proclaimed “Jesus is here on the altar!” If we had been proclaiming the True Presence after consecration for the past 50 years, maybe more Catholics would believe in the True Presence because we are our rites.

    Come Holy Spirit fill the hearts of the faithful. Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of LaSallette, Our Lady of Akita, Out Lady of Sorrows, pray for us!

  9. ChesterFrank says:

    Yes, I do think Bugnini was a Freemason. There is something diabetic in the Church today, or many things. The way that Vatican 2 was promoted was bizarre, it was like a campaign. I never recalled in those early years a mention of fondness for the traditional, it was always a push for the progressive. There was an enthusiasm for tearing down the old Church, even a ten year old noticed it. Was it all Freemasonry, I don’t know. Eastern Europe and their communists had their agenda, Western European Protestants and Secularists had their. Then of course there is the infamous Lavender Mafia. One also should not forget the equally infamous Liberal Agenda.

  10. I read the article–but I didn’t see any actual evidence that Bugnini was a Freemason. He was sneaky, messed up the Mass, lied a lot, finally got Pope Paul VI ticked off enough to push him out of the Vatican–but how does that add up to Freemasonry?

    Perhaps instead Bugnini: 1) was a secret Protestant; 2) belonged to a Satanic cult; 4) had joined the Communist Party; or 3) was just an officious, self-promoting clerical jerk who had dubious ideas about the liturgy and wanted to be the power behind the throne of Peter. But I want to see a smoking Masonic gun, not just read some rumors, before I believe the Freemasonry thing.

  11. Fr_Sotelo says:


    So, according to some, St. Paul VI would not have “allowed” a Freemason Bugnini to minister as a Catholic bishop, but he would have “tolerated” it? I find that to be a distinction without a difference.

    The Masons were avowed enemies of the Catholic Faith. They were responsible for the destruction of churches, and the murder of numerous clergy and laity in different revolutions. And you think it would not be a sin, for the Pope to tolerate a Masonic bishop to have ministry and authority over Catholic faithful?

    I wonder if we do not get so intrigued by Vatican gossip, that sometimes we give any conspiracy theory plausibility, under the pretext that the Curia would accept anything?

    Let’s just remember that St. Paul’s mentor was Pope Pius XII. If Paul VI tolerated Catholic bishops joining anti-Catholic sects and secret societies, IMO, he picked up at least some of that attitude from Pius XII. That, I find, is not only unrealistic, but unimaginable.

  12. JesusFreak84 says:

    Certain conspiracy theories about The Mess That Is 2020, especially in the US, are worse-sourced than this, but some of y’all calling this a “conspiracy” believe that claptrap without a second thought.

  13. Imrahil says:

    Rev’d Fr Sotelo,

    I consider myself, for all my weaknesses, far remote from giving in to Vatican gossip nor into giving conspiracy theories plausibility. – Well, you know, there was a conspiracy theory around (so many things are called conspiracy theories nowadays) that, after the French Soccer League was cancelled, President Macron phoned the German government under some pretext with the hidden agenda not to let the Bundesliga reopen, “don’t you undermine my anti-covid measures”, and was unsuccessful. That there was at least some phone-call of the French President was officially confirmed by the German government. So, I do believe this conspiracy theory.

    Coming back to topic, what I did say was solely concerned with the thesis that Pope St. Paul VI would not have reacted the way he did if he did find out what the theory alleges he did. To this, without any interest, I rather think he would.

    Two preliminary insiderations, for that, and then the conclusion.

    1. So, […] St. Paul VI would not have “allowed” […] but he would have “tolerated” it? I find that to be a distinction without a difference.

    But that’s, sorry, I believe the expression is “politics 1-0-1”. And a Pope is, has to be, amongst other things a politician (as is a bishop). Plus, Pope St. Paul VI before becoming Pope was effectively the Secretary-of-State (the most political post in the entire curia) of what was perhaps* [* that is, with two or three possible exceptions: St. Leo, St. Gregory and, considering the formation of the Holy League, St. Pius V] the greatest politician ever to sit on the Apostolic Throne, Pope Ven. Pius XII.

    Speaking of that, Let’s just remember that St. Paul’s mentor was Pope Pius XII. And what is Pope Ven. Pius XII most known for today? Well, to put it into the words of Fr Hunwicke, for not saying in an explicit, naming-names manner “I condemn the German state for murdering the Jews“. This was a conscious decision ad maiora mala vitanda. He felt it was his moral duty to condemn the atrocities, so he did; but it wasn’t strictly his moral duty to name names while doing so, so he didn’t, for some other great goals (such as, in this case, the quiet saving of actual Jewish lives and the sparing of Catholic ones).

    Decisions of such a kind, though hopefully mostly among somewhat less fatal alternatives are what politics is all about. And there’s no doubt that Pope St. Paul VI was the second most political Pope of the 20th century, not excluding Benedict XV.

    It is all the difference between agreeing with a sin and the insight that there will be sins in the world no matter our best efforts.

    2. The Masons were avowed enemies of the Catholic Faith. They were responsible for the destruction of churches, and the murder of numerous clergy and laity in different revolutions.

    That is true, in itself, but the thing is more complicated. The whole point of the Freemasons was that while they were such avowed enemies of the Catholic Faith ultimately, that was by no means easy to discern. The Freemasons proclaimed themselves to be clubs aiming at the moral betterment and intellectual enlightenment of their members (nothing wrong with that) in a spirit of liberty, equality and fraternity (nothing wrong with that either). W. A. Mozart who was (and remained!) a faithful Catholic became a Freemason, looking for a very Catholic lodge; all possible because there was no Internet in the day and the Austrians simply did not know that there was a Papal bull forbidding Freemasonry.

    Of course, the rather less obvious aim, visible at first only in the rule not to discuss religion within the circle, and then in the atmosphere etc., was to sort-of bring about the modern world, where religion has no place in the public sphere and, to quote Abp Lefebvre, God is dethroned.

    Now, fast forward to the 1960s. The revolutions the Freemasons did aim at had mostly already taken place (with the exception of Spain and Portugal). The enemy of the day was not Freemasonry, but Communism, a rather different movement; Freemasonry with the liberal society it idealizes was almost a sort of temporary ally (who was it that, later, won in 1989/91? Christendom? Conservative Western society? Liberalism? The loser is clear, Communism, but what about the winner?). Plus, most Catholics would have a hereditary dislike of Freemasonry due to the past conflict, and also because they were Catholics, so, ritually speaking, they had the real thing (the whole practice of Freemasonry is made-up ritual). But didn’t many of them feel that while the modern world did go too far here or there, wasn’t it good that some “oppressive” institutions were a thing of the past now? Hadn’t Vatican II – I think this reading is exaggerated, but many did exaggerate in this manner at the time and still do – accepted the Masonic notion on religious diversity? And wasn’t the whole anti-Freemasonry of the Church, anyway, tainted (and this is even true) with the marks of a whole lot of conspiracy theories and hysterical reactions, not unlike the actions of Senator McCarthy against Communism (who acted, as the Church did, against a real threat, but overdid it)?

    Sure, it was still forbidden under excommunication (as a separate crime, not apostasy). But wasn’t the Code in a process of major re-write?

    => So, assume – by hypothesis! – the Pope finds out an archbishop, and one of his close associates, is a Freemason. He is already a bishop; he can’t help the fact that this Freemason is a bishop. He can, sure, excommunicate him publicly – but would that make him less of a bishop? No, he still keeps his sacramental character. Also, it might led the bishop to do trouble; more so if he had still his excommunication to fear. Also, putting up the flags “anti-Freemasonry” and “excommunications are there for use” would mean a major correction of the course he had steered the Ecclesial Ship. Welcome ones in my view, yes; but then, he had chosen his course consciously; to change them then would be the equivalent of Mgr Lefebvre hearing about the assassination-attempt of Pope St. John Paul II by a crazy traditionalist-terrorist and celebrating the New Mass in response. Reasonable people know beforehand that there are crazy extremists on either wing; they won’t throw the steering-wheel around at the surprise of suddenly finding out.

    Of course, one could make the argument that Catholics should not put under the jurisdiction of a Freemason. But Nuncios have no jurisdiction; not at least in the narrow definition of the term.

    But, again:

    my thesis is that the happenings, as far as they are known, would be compatible with the theory. But that is all. It is, I believe, a disproof of a disproof; but no proof.

  14. AA Cunningham says:

    “We must strip from our Catholic prayers and from the Catholic liturgy everything which can be the shadow of a stumbling block for our separated brethren that is for the Protestants.” Annibale Bugnini, L’Osservatore Romano, March 1965

    It should be noted that during the Pontificate of Pope St. John XXIII, Bugnini was suddenly removed from his position as Secretary to the Preparatory Commission for the Liturgy after he had already launched The Bugnini Schema which was the catalyst for what would become known as the Ordinary Form. He was also stripped of his chair as Professor of Sacred Liturgy at the Lateran University both occurring without official explanation.

  15. Priam1184 says:

    With Father’s permission I will post here a link to one of the strangest things I have ever seen: a video of Annibale Bugnini on 10 November 1979 reading to the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini Pope Saint John Paul II’s request for the release of the hostages taken at the American Embassy in Tehran.

  16. Fr_Sotelo says:


    I’m not convinced that Paul VI would have permitted Bugnini to minister because of 1) political expediency or 2) the fact that in the 1960’s the Masons were less anti-Catholic or because 3) since Bugnini was not a diocesan bishop, he technically was not in authority over the faithful or 4) it would have been too impacting or harmful for the Church to publicly punish Bugnini and finally because 5) removing Bugnini would indict or impugn Church reforms since Paul VI had steered the Church in that direction with Bugnini’s help.

    It is precisely because the case of the Pope tolerating a Masonic Bugnini is a crime against the Faith, and a scandal of epic proportions, that the Bugnini–Freemasonry link is still a relished topic among certain traditionalists.

    This topic would have never gained traction if the five reasons above could be a plausible, Catholic rationale, for Paul VI to simply “look the other way.” As long as I have read the attacks against Bugnini, they have always had a simple purpose. That is, to indict Bugnini, and Paul VI, and the OF Mass, and Vatican II, as truly unCatholic and an evil infiltration of the Church.

  17. ordovirginum says:

    Whatever might have been wrong with Vatican II and Bugnini, here is something positive:

    As a direct result of V2, the ancient rite of consecration of virgins was restored to virgins who remain living in the world, thereby correcting the injustice imposed by the 1927 interdict of the Congregation for Religious and the 1950 encyclical Sponsa Christi of Pope Pius XII, which prohibited the rite to the very class of women for whom the rite was originally designed.

    What is particularly interesting is that V2 never envisaged such a restoration; it happened as a result of the work of the liturgy revision committee applying the principles of aggiornamento and ressourcement. To date about 5,000 virgins living independently in the world have been consecrated with this ancient rite.

    Bugnini was Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship in 1970 when the revised consecration rite was published. He described the rite as precious, venerable and endearing by reason of its spiritual content, its very ancient origins, and the beauty of some of its formulas.

    Further, in describing the work of revision, he said that the main aim was to conserve the authentic and traditional meaning of the rite which was always understood as the nuptial between Christ and the woman whose virginity is consecrated to Him.

    He also said that the revision marks the end of a period when the law was very severe and it returns the rite to the situation as it was at its origins.

  18. Semper Gumby says:

    Thanks Fr. Z for Peter Kwasniewski’s article, it adds an interesting piece of the puzzle.

    Rosary Rose, AA Cunningham and Imrahil: Thanks for your helpful comments.

  19. RichR says:

    After 20 years of delving through traditionalism (starting with listening to every recorded talk of Davies, reading most of his books, reading the SSPX‘s “The Problem of the Liturgical Reform”, Lefebrve’s “Open Letter To Confused Catholics”, “Iota Unum”, Von Hildebrand’s “Trojan Horse” & “Devastated Vineyard”, Cekada’s “Work Of Human Hands”, and too many other books to enumerate, having started a men’s Schola Cantorum 17 years ago, trained a Traditional Latin Mass server corps, and promoted the local TLM), I can honestly say these tired old rumors of Bugnini are a convenient punching bag for frustrated traditionalists who want to justify their own liturgical superiority by invoking what I call “the cloud of suspicion”. Once a dark cloud surrounds a person, everything about them becomes suspect and they are incapable of redemption. I see this same thing happen with priests accused of impropriety. Whether or not the accusations are true, that man’s reputation is shot. And those who bring up the accusations are treated like heroes.

    There is no direct proof I have ever found in 20 years to substantiate this calumny if Bugnini, only hearsay. And I have never seen any positive fruits of people perpetuating this story.

    Even if it were true, the reforms under Paul VI were given his stamp of approval. By virtue of his office of Pope, those forms of the Sacraments effect what they symbolize, [CHRIST effects what the sacraments symbolize.] and the majority of Catholic souls will cling to these ordinary lifelines of grace to get them to their eternal rest (where Latin matters very little). [You can’t know that.]

  20. Semper Gumby says:

    Spiritual and situational awareness.

  21. Fr_Sotelo says:


    I can see we have gone through the same reading list! Although I have never directed a Latin schola cantorum. However, my resume includes having offered the EF Mass for some years.

    What is very Catholic about your post, in contrast to the non contribution of others, is the discernment of spiritual fruit and sanctity.

    You asked the all important questions: “Where does this Bugnini calumny/ detraction bear fruit in liturgical piety, for the Church?” After all, isn’t the goal of liturgical study to help us be holy? If our liturgy discussions aren’t helping us change the world, are they not useless? Where’s the fruit?

    And the other issue you raised was getting to heaven.

    Hearing and sharing about someone else’s sins might give “awareness” but like you, I have never seen sanctity radiate from those running around, accusing bishops of Freemasonry. And in our final, can you imagine Catholics telling Christ the Judge, “In order to follow you better, I told people that I heard Bugnini was a Mason.” LOL.

  22. Semper Gumby says:

    RichR wrote: “I can honestly say these tired old rumors of Bugnini are a convenient punching bag for frustrated traditionalists…”

    Expand your thinking here. Note what Fr. Z wrote:

    “Suddenly, in 1976, Paul VI took Bugnini out of Congregation for Divine Worship and, even though he had no diplomatic background, sent him to be Nuncio to Iran. People wonder to this day what precipitated such an odd move.”

    Your disinterest and discomfort with this topic led you to insult those Catholics researching this matter. Curious.

    “Once a dark cloud surrounds a person…”

    Ah, Bugnini as passive victim.

    “And those who bring up the accusations are treated like heroes.”

    Provide evidence of your claim with names, medals awarded, ticker-tape parades held.

    Spiritual and situational awareness.

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