Serving Two Masters – Why Catholics Still Can’t Be Masons

ServingI found this little booklet at the back of the church and was intrigued by the title.  I have no interest in the Masons.  However my great Uncle Alex was a Freemason of the Scottish 33 Degree Order in Canada . I possess his ring which is inscribed “Virtus Junxit Mors Non Separabit” (Whom virtues unites, death will not separate).  So my family on my mother’s side has a history.

Why can’t a Catholic also belong to the Masons?  Deacon Cerrato’s argument starts with the fact that Christ said “No one can serve two masters for either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. (Mt 6:24).  He then goes into detail with documented evidence that the Free Masons Order is for all intents and purposes a “religion”, even though they vehemently deny this.  The roots of the word religion mean “to bind”.  There are two fundamental beliefs that a Mason must hold if they wish to join: 1) Existence of a Supreme Being, and 2) The immortality of the soul.  Hence they are bound by this.

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The Supreme Being is a deistic concept and not necessarily the Trinitarian God that Christians believe in.  Immortality of the soul sounds OK you think, but it is how you get there wherein Catholics and Freemasons differ, as we shall see.

Furthermore as the author points out, Masons believe that various religions are created equal (religious relativism).  Proof of this is that in the Entered Apprentice initiation ceremony, the book opened on the altar is the Bible if one is Christian, the Tanakh if one is a Jew or the Koran if one is a Muslim.  The candidate must “swear” before this book that he will not divulge the secrets of Masonry.  There are two problems for Catholics here: 1) Swearing an oath in God’s name violates the Second Commandment (Ex 20:17, Deut 5:11).  2) Secondly, believing that all religions are equal denies that the Catholic faith is the one “true religion” handed down by Jesus when he gave Peter the keys to the Church.

Masons believe that their soul’s afterlife can be attained by good works and secret knowledge (gnosticism).  They do not (have to) believe in the doctrine of original sin, man’s diminished nature and our need for salvation through Jesus Christ with God’s grace (Pelagianism).  This is a non starter for Catholics – there is no salvation outside of personal belief in the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The doctrines of religious relativism, gnosticism and Pelagianism are all heresies that have been condemned by the Church.

In short, while the Church has nothing against individual Masons or their charitable philanthropic activities, it does have grave objections to the organization’s religious character and its ability to subvert the faith of Catholics who join or support its fraternity.  At this point I was totally convinced that one can not be a Catholic and a Freemason, as the beliefs, rituals, symbols and documents are mutually exclusive.

But what of the Knights of Columbus you say – are they not a secret fraternal society not that different from the Freemasons?  The critical difference says the author is where the Knights of Columbus supplement the faith of its Catholic members, Freemasonry supplants the faith of its Catholic members.  This is why 21 different Popes have condemned Freemasonry and its beliefs in various bulls under pain of excommunication, for any Catholic who joins.

An interesting aspect of Deacon Cerrato’s discussion deals with salvation.  In Dominus Iesus (2006 document by the Sacred Congregation of the Faith) affirmed that the full means of salvation subsists in the Catholic Church, other Christian churches (Orthodoxy) and ecclesial communities (Protestants), participate in the salvic grace of Christ to the extent they are in imperfect communion with the Catholic Church. Furthermore, non-Christians can also partake of this saving grace from God “in ways known to Himself” although the Church considers that they are in a gravely deficient spiritual situation.  Wow, I did not know all this and am both relieved and pleased!

All in all, a very well written and enlightening booklet on this subject.  Thank you so much Deacon Cerrato.

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The Death of Ivan Ilyich

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This novela by the famous Russian novelist and philosopher Leo Tolstoy was hard to put down.  It tells the story of a successful 19th century Russian man who suddenly becomes ill and is dying.  He has to deal with pain and death and the meaninglessness of his life and death.  The story is told in poignant  detail in the “realist” writing style of the mid-19th century.  Such novelists saw themselves as clinical realists whose job was to describe exactly the way life is or was with no personal filters, colouration or romanticism applied.  It was like a scientific experiment – report exactly what you see and what you conclude based on the reality of everyday life.  Obviously this is impossible to do without imparting some personal view, perspective or flavour.  In this case, this book is actually a philosophic treatise on the meaningless of life due to the consequences of consumerism and secularization that was rampant in Leo’s time.

Leo Tolstoy is a very interesting character.  Born into a wealthy family in 1828 south of Moscow, he gave up all his wealth to live as a common serf in search of the real meaning of life.  Deeply religious, he began writing novels and papers on what he saw and what he thought about everyday life in Russia and Europe in the mid 19th century.  You have heard and may have read one of his famous books such as War and Peace and Anna Karenina.  Towards the end of his life, he abandoned his wife, children and hut to become a wandering esthetic but died shortly thereafter in 1910.

In the Death of Ivan Ilyich, like most of us, Ivan struggles with the fear of death and when he is dying, the utter meaningless of his life’s successes: court judge, wife, children, friends, status, good income etc..  It all means nothing when one is dying.  He is even a burden to his family as they can’t wait for him to die to get on with their lives.  As he suffers through his pain and thoughts, near the end he finally comes to grips with his own death.  In accepting the inevitability of his death he is suddenly able to feel compassion for others for the first time.  This is the “light”: One must live their life in full awareness and acceptance that they are dying and only then is there real meaning to life and compassion for others and, a better ability to prioritize what one does with their life, in the short time that we have.  Wow! 10 out of 10 by a real master.

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Leo Tolstoy at 79, courtesy Wikipedia

 

 

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World Cup Fever

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I am an on again, off again sports fan.  About a week before our Baltic cruise, I noticed a posting from a guy named Jack on the Cruisecritic roll call where people meet up beforehand.  He was desperately looking for someone to accompany him on an evening out in Saint Petersburg to experience World Cup fever.  I cautiously responded that I was intrigued and potentially interested.

In Russia you can’t just walk off the ship and wander around.  You either have to have a tourist visa ($$$) or have signed up with an accredited Russian tour company who provide you with a blanket visa while on one of their tours.  As it turned out, we had both already contracted with Alla Tours to see Saint Petersburg so it was easy for me to join him in this private tour.

Not sure what to expect, Jack said he had experienced World Cup fever before and said I would love the excitement of the fans in the streets, bars, jumbo screens etc..  Marie and I tend to enjoy soccer or futebol as they call it elsewhere.  So Jack and I headed out the first evening we were in Saint Petersburg for our world cup fever tour.

Our tour guide asked us what we wanted to do.  I wanted to see the new stadium built specifically for the world cup in Saint Petersburg.  We could not get into it but we stopped for a photo.  It is known as Krevtosky or Zenit Stadium, cost $1.7millionUS and seats some 68,000.  Would love to have gone to a game there but would you have to apply to FIFA many months in advance to get a ticket.  Morocco and Iran were to play here the following night.  A ticket costs from $90 to $150US but also provides you with a “fanpass visa” entitling you to go anywhere in the country for 45 days.  Pretty cool.

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We then stopped at a souvenir shop and we each bought a nice Russia World Cup 2018 ball cap.  Jack then suggested we go to a bar.  Our guide whose name I have unfortunately forgotten, was a nice young man and suggested we go to a “local bar”.

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Hello comrade Lenin, comrade Morgan here.

We sauntered into a bar.  Before we sat down, I warily took a picture of everyone and they cheered!  Good start I thought.  We ordered some beer and food and were enjoying ourselves when 2 Russians at the next table noticed us came over to offer us some vodka and to have a toast.  It does not get more local than this I thought!  One of the Russians was a navy captain as had been Jack, so we all connected around that topic.  The vodka actually tasted good!  It is ordered in shot glasses or in a larger glass container.  You drink it straight down and follow it with a fruit juice chaser.

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Our tour guide centre, friendly Russian navy captain on right

Jack disappeared outside for a while to chat and I continued chatting with my Russian friend and other fans as they came by.  It was soon time to head out to the streets and we said our goodbyes.  As we left the sidewalk in front was crowded with people chatting and having a good time.  A couple of young Russian men raced by with their flag, their team having just defeated Saudi Arabia.

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We walked a few blocks down Nevsky Prospect and joined in the fun.  Fans of Morocco and of Iran were running down the sidewalks and chanting and singing out their country’s praise with large flags. We high-fived each other and everyone smiled and cheered.   We were all one in our love of futebol and our home nation.

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The next day we saw the Fanfest zone where they have the jumbo screens and non-stop fan celebrations to which you need a ticket.  This was truly a memorable world experience!

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Towards the end of the cruise we met Jack again with his lovely wife Carmy for a drink.  It was a fitting way to say goodbye after a great time together.  We made tentative plans to travel together again sometime.  As I write this, Russia has just defeated Spain to enter the quarter finals.  Go Russia Go!  However, perennial favorite team Brazil is also in the running.  Thanks Jack for the intiative to arrange this fab tour.

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Baltic Cruise by the Numbers

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Friends who had done this itinerary before said we would really enjoy this cruise – they were right, we really did!  Here are some facts:
– 9 countries in 10 days
– Oceania Marina, built 2011 Italy, 1250 passengers, 785 crew
– ‎total nautical miles cruised 1519
– currencies: Swe‎den: Krona; Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, Germany: Euro; Russia: Rubles; Poland: Zloty; Denmark: Krone
– weight gain 5 lbs lol!
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Boarding with anticipation

 This was more like a river cruise than an ocean one. We were in port each day and off touring for 3 to 12 hours at a time. We could walk off the ship in most ports and Oceania had a free shuttle bus where needed. It was both exhilarating and very exhausting!  It was only on 2 days where we had a few hours to relax on board. Dave swam only a few times and we used the hot tub once or twice. Weather was superb though, 18 – 25 C, only rained twice.
 Our favorite city for sure was St. Petersburg. There is so much to see and do there, so much beauty and history. Words fail to describe the feeling one has there.  It changed our idea about Russia. Russia is not so bad‎ after all and has a lot to offer the world – witness the current World Cup spectacular. Ironically, the U.S. seems to be on its way to becoming more Russia like at present.
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Neptune’s Fountain at Peterhof, the Tsar’s Summer Palace

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St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg

 Our second favorite city was Gdansk. Absolutely stunning architectural beauty by the sea and so accommodating in its port and tourist facilities. A real gem. Marie’s 3rd favorite city was Copenhagen because of it’s relaxed, friendly, bicycle oriented people culture. Dave’s was Helsinki due it’s fresh open air simplicity of life style. Most underrated city was Stockholm – fresh, colourful, beautiful views.  A highlight was our one day excursion into Berlin – emotionally overwhelming at times because of the dark history there.
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Atop St. Mary’s Cathedral in Gdansk

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At the Berlin Wall

When you take a cruise like this, you meet a lot of people. There are a lot of people queuing and moving everywhere, everyday. It’s confining, the cabin is confining. You have to get used to it. Also, when out on tour, finding the next WC is a priority and can be challenging when you don’t have the right currency.  They charge a small fee for use in many countries.  ‎It takes patience for sure. Marie is naturally more patient than Dave. Patience is duty free!
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Beautiful Nyhavn Canal Street in Copenhagen

One disappointment was the low key port of Klaipeda in Lithuania.  However it came right after the sophisticated Riga.  Another was that our cabin steward who was named Steel, was rather antisocial and did not get to know us at all.  He inadvertently left our cabin door wide open one night after cleaning.  We discovered this oversight to our dismay when we returned home after midnight.  However, nothing was missing.  We were saddened too when our friends Judy and Bruce had to leave early for a family funeral.  Our only personal mishap was catching head colds about half way thru.
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With Bruce and Judy at Red Ginger Restaurant on board

Why do we travel?
– to hear the babble of foreign languages
– for the lure of the adventure
– to experience different perspectives
– to see that there are alternate ways of living, of being
‎- to realize we are all one in this world
– ‎to see more of God’s creation
– for the love of life
– to know ourselves better
 In the moment, we rate this trip 9/10, pretty hard to beat.  Cheers!
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4 PM Tea Time on the Marina

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Baltic Cruise – Days 12-14 – Copenhagen

We say our goodbyes to our friends on the Marina and catch a cab to our hotel … after a 40 min wait. It’s only a 2 star but prices are ‎high in Copenhagen. Our room is not ready so we head out on the longest pedestrian shopping street in the world – the Stroget. We stop for tea and an organ concert and prayers in the Church of the Holy Ghost. I find a nice souvenir tee shirt for $20CDN. As we head back we run into Mr and Mrs Cobb – the couple from Atlanta on our St Petersburg tour. Our room is ready but as there is no lift, we must hoof our heavy bags up 2 floors. We are so fatigued we eat some snacks in our room and sleep for 10 hrs!

We are up and at it after a superb Danish breakfast of fruit, oatmeal, bread and cheeses. We walk 4 km to the iconic Little Mermaid statue‎ via the beautiful Nyhavn canal district with its colourfull houses, boats and outdoor cafes. There are throngs of tourists snapping pictures. We stop for lunch – Danish smorebrod open face sandwiches and Tuborg beer. The sun is out and we are in Copenhagen!

Later we watch Mexico beat Korea in soccer. Mexican players cross themselves whenever they enter the field or score. How wonderful to see this after all the secular experiences we have been having on this trip.

On our last day we go to attend Mass at ‎Sacred Heart of Jesus Church. We arrive an hour early and Mass will be in Danish. We light a candle for baby Morgan our grandson to be and say our prayers. Then we explore Norrebro on foot, a multicultural neighborhood. There are joggers and families biking everywhere. We find Hans Christen Anderson’s and Soren Kirkegaard’s grave sites in Assisstens Cemetery. We take a bus back and rest.

We go for brunch at a Turkish buffet restaurant and it is great. Our voyage is coming to an end. We must pack our bags tonight and head for home tomorrow. It has been a great adventure these past 2 weeks. Thanks for traveling with us!

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Baltic Cruise – Day 11 – Berlin

We access our Berlin tour bus in Warnemunde on a rainy morning. Our tour guide points out the old Henchel WWII bomber factory. The rise of Prussia in northern Germany, and it’s military victory over France led to unification in 1870. Berlin (means swamp) had been Prussia’s capital. It was chosen to be the capital of the unified Germany. It’s a 3 hr bus ride from the ship.

We drive thru Mecklenburg, a predominantly rural federal district. It’s is thinly populated but the most popular area for Germans to come on vacation. This may be due to the miles and miles of nudist beaches on the Baltic. Germans say they are born nude so what’s wrong with being nude on a beach!

There are 20,000 wind turbines in this area. We learn that 10-15% of their electricity comes from wind. Germany is among the most greenest of nations.‎ Berlin has a population of 3 million and then more in the suburbs. We enter it thru heavily treed streets. Gas price $2.10CDN/L.

We drive by the ‎Charlotenburg Palace that was built for the wife of a Prussian emperor. The Kaiser is forced to abdicate in 1918 after WWI. This sets off a period of political and economic instability. In 1929 the Wall Street collapse leads to pull back on loans to Germany and it’s economic ruin. The Nazi party goes from 3 to 37%. They are invited to from a coalition government. Within a few years they murder all their political allies, announce pogroms against Jews and start WWII. Hitler’s vision is to make Germany the dominant world power. A thug and his goons in power for sure.

We walk past the Rieschstag (Germany’s parliament building) and thru the Brandenburg Gate to East Berlin. Daniel our guide explains that this gate was in between the outer and inner Berlin Wall – the so called death zone where anyone present would be shot by East German guards.

As we walk thru the holocaust memorial – a set of 7211 large concrete blocks, I feel overwhelmed in the maze. It would be easy to get lost. I think of Auscwitz.‎ We have some German sausage on a bun for lunch. Then it is on to the Royal Blvd under the Linden trees. We gape at the spectacular Lutheran Cathedral and look at photos where Hitler and Goebbels onve spoke to the masses in this very same square. Daniel our guide explains yiu can be arrested here for denying the Holcadpaust or doing the Nazi salute!

At Checkpoint Charlie we stop for a photo by the longest section remaining of the Berlin Wall. Then we look at the parking lot below which once stood Hitler’s bunker. There are cranes and construction everywhere in the central core. It’s a work in progress to restore and rebuild the city from its WWII destruction.

Satisfied, it’s time to head back to the ship. We are exhausted and ready for some wine. This is the last night on the Marina and we have to finish packing. Great German themed dinner in the Terrace. We finish after 9 PM. Large bags packed and outside our door by 10PM.

‎We enjoyed seeing Berlin.

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Baltic Cruise – Day 10 – Gdansk

For some reason this portion of yesterday’s post, did not post. Here it is again.
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The next morning we are in Gdansk, Poland. This is one of Poland’s most beautiful cities – the Jewel of the Baltic. The Solidarity‎ movement led by Lec Wolensa in the 1980s at the Gdansk shipyards established the right of workers to establish their own unions. With Pope JPII’s patient leadership and prayers, Poland became free of Soviet control in 1990. I understand Poland’s current government is anti-migrant and pro-Catholic faith – an oxymoron it seems.

We are shuttled into town. We find St Mary’s Basilica, the largest brick church in the world. It is under renovation and it is too early to do the tour. We walk through the gorgeous long wide cobble stone street lined with outdoor cafes, flowers and little shops. Wow, absolutely beautiful. We find an ATM and get some Zloties. The tee shirts are about $17CDN so not to expensive. We stalk up on gifts for the family.

We head back to St Mary’s and climb the 90m high tower through first a spiral and then a wider staircase. The views of Gdansk form the top are stunning on this sunny day. We made it – over 300 steps up and then down again!‎ We love Poland – its people, its food, its perseverance, its faith!

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We stop for tea. Then walk thru amber jewellery store lined streets. Amber comes from Russia next door but it is traded here in vast quantities. ‎A few more photos before we walk across the pedestrian draw bridge to the shuttle. Plan to take it easy the rest of the day as we cruise out-of-town.

We meet Jack and his wife Cammy from Leesburg‎ for a drink and make plans to cruise to the Holy Land together. We have dinner next to some Japanese. I ask one of them if they could take our photo and if they know how to take a picture on my camera. Her answer is “I am Japanese”. The world is a ghetto!

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Jesu ufam tobie. Jesus I trust in you. St. Faustina pray for us.

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Baltic Cruise Day 9-10 Klaipeda-Gdansk

Klaipeda is Lithuania’s port on the Baltic. ‎It has a busy harbour which includes a ship building site. We catch the shuttle bus into town and saunter thru the old town. It is low key with not a tee shirt store in sight. The central square has some stalls with amber jewelry, wooden carvings and small paintings for sale. We leave the old town and walk into the newer town.

Very uncommercial – the stores do not have signs hanging out overhead so we must peer into each to see what they have. We try the door of a Lutheran Church but it is locked. They do not get many tourists here it seems and we feel a little disappointed for the first time. We have been to Vilnius the capital and know that Lithuania has a lot of beautiful churches and squares. We stop for a rest and then head back to the ship.

I have time to enjoy the sunny balcony while Marie gets a pedicure. We head for tea time and enjoy the light pastries and sandwiches with tea and the live quartet playing. It does not get better than this we think. Finished up with surf and turf in the Polo specialty restaurant!

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Baltic Cruise Day 8 – Riga

As we pull into Latvia up the Daugava River, I see ships being loaded with coal, wood, wood chips‎, containers as well as some conveyor belted product stored in large globe shaped tanks I cannot identify (possibly grain?). I see massive amounts of water being sprayed on coal piles presumably for safety purposes. This goes on for miles and miles – all pretty industrial stuff but essential products for our daily lives. I see what looks like an airport control tower presumably for harbour traffic. Riga is the largest Baltic state city at 750,000. It shows in the massive size of these port facilities.

I hear part of a lecture how each of the Baltic state countries have to treat their Russian minority populations with care. Otherwise they risk a Russian invasion witness Ukraine. ‎Apparently Lithuania came close to being invaded last November.

We walk into the old town on cobble stoned streets. Everything is really well kept and clean. Gorgeous pubs and outdoor cafes dot the feet of art deco buildings. People are extremely well dressed. This could be Paris or London. We walk for 3 hours gazing into churches and stopping at souvenir shops‎. We here jazz and other music wafting out of windows. It is very sophisticated and beautiful. The currency is the Euro and prices are high eg Riga tee shirt $26CDN vs $12 in Helsinki. We stop at a very upscale McDonald’s for a McCafe tea served in white pots and tea cups – boy has McDonald’s changed at least here we think. I sample a very good blackberry based local wine. We try to see more but soon tire and head back.

I notice gasoline is priced at about $1.90CDN/litre. It was less than a dollar back in Russia. ‎Founded in 1201, Riga is the largest Baltic city today at 750,000 and has prospered in trade ever since it’s founding. Known for it’s old town centre, it’s art nouveau buildings, there is too an ultramodern side across the river we see from the ship. Since declaring independence in 1991, Latvia has enjoyed one of the fastest growing economies of Europe. We don’t see any visible evidence that the Soviets were here.

The morning started off sunny. It clouds over and sprinkles lightly – our first rain. By 4:30 the sun comes out again.

We eat in Toscana, the Italian specialty restaurant with 3 American couples. The end of another great day is here.

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Baltic Cruise Day 7 – Helsinki

We sadly say goodbye to Bruce and Judy today as they are heading home for a funeral. We had lot’s of fun together. To be continued again next time we meet.

‎Helsinki. The shuttle bus drops us at the central square on the waterfront. We stroll through some lenders stalls and booths with giant slabs of salmon cooking. It’s a perfect sunny day and everyone is out for a stroll.

We enter the Uspenski Cathedral, one of the largest Orthodox churches in Western Europe. A service is on. People stand facing the icon stand. There are many candles up front and the smell of insense. We can see several priests partially hidden behind the stand. One occasionally comes out and reads lines from a book. The choral choir of 3 or 4 people and organist respond each time. People are crossing themselves and bowing. It is all very sacred.

We walk by the Helsinki Lutheran Cathedral. It is crowded in the square out front. Everyone is very calm and pleasant here. We ask for directions to the WC and bank machine. The attendant understands and can speak English clearly. We see coffee stalls and bars everywhere. Finns are the greatest drinkers of coffee in the world. We stroll through a shady park and stop for lunch. After a little shopping, back to the shuttle bus we go after 3 hours of pleasant walking.

As we cruise out we see dozens of flat islands with Finns sunbathing on. There was a big outdoor swimming pool and sauna facility right in the harbor area. Finns are famous outdoor enthusiasts.

At the Oceania Club party, we meet an Armenian couple now living in FL. Ara tells me he was born in Istanbul and that the Armenia was the first nation to officially adopt Christianity as their faith predating all other Christian communities outside Jerusalem. Wow I did not know this.

We call it a night and sleep well.

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