Depending on who's writing the headline, some are branding this visit as a shocking development. As in much of Europe, Freemasonry in France is under an enormous strain of public suspicion. Whenever a French news magazine or scandal sheet has slumping readership, a good, solid, lurid anti-Masonic cover story always plumps up sales, and they love to allege secret Masonic perfidy in the halls of the Elysee Palace. So, Hollande going deep in the heart o' Masonland is big headline stuff today. He's getting away with it because he's a lame duck anyway. His name is not on the ballot in the upcoming rounds of presidential run-offs and elections - after one term in office, he's had enough. So, he's not committing political suicide by doing this.
The Museum is one of the largest of its kind in the world, is supported to some extent by France's intricate government cultural funding apparatus, and tells the story of the country's extremely diverse Masonic landscape. As a way of clarifying that diversity, I'll just say that representatives of 17 different Masonic obediences (what we would simply brand as grand lodges here) will be in attendance. The last time I was able to find any comparisons, between 20-25% of all French Freemasons are women. So, the Museum has a big and complicated story to try to explain, and it was to a large extent a cooperative effort with many of them. French Masons tend not to sling around accusations of "clandestine" and "bogus" at each other, and are usually pretty cordial, for a whole raft of historical reasons.
The Grand Orient is not recognized by the UGLE, the US grand lodges, or the vast majority of the Anglo-Saxon descended Masonic world, but it's the largest by far in their country. Next in size is the Grande Loge de France (GLdF), which isn't recognized by many either. You have to go down to the third in size - the Grande Loge National Francais (GLNF) to get to the one the bulk of us are in amity with.
Hollande will have a ten minute private chat with the GOdF's Grand Master, Christophe Habat, a 20 minute walk through of the Museum itself, then give a 30 minute speech. The Grand Orient has never been shy of taking official public policy stands on political topics, and they have always been strong supporters of France's strict religious separation policy of laïcité - which is one of the big reasons why Freemasons have been and remain crossways with the Roman Catholic Church, who sees us all as the primary architects of France's extremely hard line secularism laws and policies. The Grand Orient really is kind of exactly what the Vatican accuses us all of, and they're in no hurry to figure out the differences between us. Anyway, there have been renewed battles politically in France regarding laïcité laws and policies over Islam, especially regarding public displays of religious symbols and clothing and much, much more, so Hollande's speech is expected to talk about that in what he thinks is friendly territory.
It should be interesting to see the headlines Tuesday morning.
(If you ever go to Paris, tell your traveling companion that she really, really WILL find the Museum interesting, and you're not just dragging her to some boring Mason thingie after coming halfway around the world. Both Cadet and Le Peletier Metro stops are the same distance, about a 2 minute walk.)