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wpeD.jpg (5986 bytes) The Shriners


To be eligible for the Shriners one must be a 32nd or 33rd degree Mason.

This is an official article, part of a series, explaining Masonry to the public..

The Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine for North America is an international fraternity of approximately 800,000 members who belong to 190 Shrine Temples through-out North America. Thirteen Masonic brothers founded the Shrine in New York City in 1872 on the basis of the Masonic principles of brotherly love, relief and truth, adopting the requirement that only a 32nd degree Scottish Rite Mason or Knights Templar York Rite Mason can petition to become a Noble of the Mystic Shrine.

The basic organizational unit of the Shrine is the Temple, which is governed by an elected board called the Divan. The Divan is headed by the Potentate, who is the presiding officer of the local Temple. All Shrine Temples are subordinate to the Imperial Council, which meets annually. The Imperial Council is composed of representatives elected by each Temple, all past and present Imperial officers, and emeritus representatives. The Imperial Divan, the Shrine's governing board, is headed by the Imperial Potentate, the Shrine's highest officer and consists of 13 elected officers. A new officer is elected to the Imperial Divan each year and moves up one rung in succeeding years. Only the Imperial Treasurer and Imperial Recorder do not move up the Imperial line, but are generally re-elected to their current posts.

The best known symbol of Shrinedom is the distinctive red fez that all Shriners wear at official functions. (see photo above) The fez derives its name from the of Fez, Morocco, and was chosen as part of the Shrine's Arabic (Near East) theme, which was developed by the two men who were the driving force behind the new order: Billy Florence, a popular actor, and William Fleming, a prominent New York physician. Both men knew the fledgling fraternity needed an appealing backdrop against which the color and pageantry of the Shrine could be played out.

Legend says that Florence conceived of the Arabic theme when he attended a party in Marseilles, France, hosted by an Arabian diplomat. At the end of the party, the guests became members of a secret society in an elaborate ceremony. Florence realized that this might be the ideal vehicle for the new fraternity, and he made copious notes and drawings of the ceremony.

When Florence returned to the states, he showed his material to Fleming, and together the two men created the rituals, designed the emblem and costumes, and formulated the salutation. The first Shrine Temple Mecca Temple was organized in New York City, and the new fraternity was on its way. The turn of the century brought a dramatic increase in Shrine membership and a growing desire for an official Shrine philanthropy. Individual Temples had always supported various charitable causes, but now the Shrine was ready for its own philanthropic cause. Thus was born, in 1922, the first Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children, dedicated to providing excellent medical care to children with orthopaedic diseases and injuries. at no cost to the patients, their parents or any third party.

The concept was so successful, and the potential for helping children so great, that additional Shriners Hospitals followed the first, and the Shrine's hospital network grew rapidly. In 1936, the hospital network had expanded to the point that the Shrine separately incorporated its philanthropy, creating a wholly distinct charitable corporation to distinguish its philanthropic activities from its fraternal activities.

During the 1950s, Shriners began looking for other ways they could help children, and they became aware of the lack of medical expertise in burn care. Each year, thousands of children are crippled, disfigured or killed by this tragic hazard of childhood.

Thus, forty years after opening its first Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children, the Shrine opened its three Shriners Burns Institutes, each with a three-fold purpose of helping children, conducting burn research and training medical personnel in the treatment of burns.

Today, there are 19 orthopaedic Shriners Hospitals ahd three Shriners Burns Institutes located throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. All 22 Shriners Hospitals adhere to the principles laid down in 1922 - all care would be free to any child under 18 (originally 14) in need of orthopaedic or burn care, with only the condition that treatment at another facility would place a financial burden on the family.

Today, the Shrine and its hospitals, while maintaining their separate legal and financial identities, are inextricably linked through the Shrine's founding and support of Shriners Hospitals, and Shriners Hospitals for Crippled Children have become known as the "heart and soul of the Shrine."

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