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Historically, Freemasonry has been associated with the care of orphans, the sick and the aged. This work continues today, and in recent times substantial sums have been donated to both Masonic and non-Masonic charities.
Charity is a large part of a Freemason's life, one of the three basic guiding principals taught in Freemasonry: Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. Relief is the word Freemasons use for charity. To the Freemason, relief (charity) is not simply putting money in a collecting tin. Much more than that, charity in its widest sense is about relationships between people, how they treat each other, the need to respect one another, and tolerance of the differences between them.
Practical assistance such as giving money is important, but it is a charitable attitude which is paramount and it is this that Freemasons are taught in their Lodges. Within the British Isles Freemasons are the second largest charity donor, surpassed only by The National Lottery.
Established 17 March 1862, is the oldest existing Masonic Charity sitting under the Irish Constitution of Freemasonry; and the Belfast Masonic Widows Fund, was established 24 January 1873. The Most Hon. George Hamilton, 3rd Marquess of Donegall and Sir Charles Lanyon were Patrons of these charities. Some founding Lodges of both these worthy charities still meet in Freemasons’ Hall Arthur Square.