861.404/5–3045: Telegram

The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Harriman) to the Secretary of State

1800. Moscow press for May 29th announced that Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia had departed together with church delegation to visit countries of Near East.95 Embassy’s translation of announcement follows:

At invitation of the Patriarch of Alexandria Most Blessed Christopher, the Patriarch of Jerusalem Most Blessed Timothy, the Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, Most Blessed Alexander III, a church delegation consisting of 12 persons headed by the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Most Holy Alexsei departed from Moscow on May 28th for return visits to Cairo, Jerusalem, Alexandria, Damascus and Beirut.96

The following are included in the delegation accompanying the Patriarch: Metropolitan Krutitsi Nikolai, Archbishop of Tula and Belev, Vitali: Archpriest Nikolai Kolchitski and other churchmen and ecclesiastics.

Metropolitan Krutitsi Nikolai, accompanied by Archpriest Nikolai Kolchitski and Priest Iuvenali will go from Cairo to London at the [Page 1128] invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury and will return the Archbishop of York’s visit to the Moscow Patriarchate.97

Sent to Department as 1800, repeated to Jerusalem to Cairo as 65; Beirut and London as 229.

  1. The return of the church delegation from this visit was announced in the Moscow press for June 27.
  2. The Department received several descriptive accounts of this visit from along the way. Despatch 13034, November 26, 1945, from Bern, reported a significant article in the Gazette de Lausanne for October 16, which drew attention to the efforts of the Soviet Union to revive its contacts and influence particularly in Syria and the Lebanon through the Orthodox Church. At the time of the election of the Patriarch Alexey, “the Patriarchs of Syria and Alexandria implicitly recognized the authority of the Russian Patriarch over their dioceses. Thus was renewed by a gesture which passed almost unnoticed the traditional Russian protectorate over the Orthodox groups in the Near East. Although some may say that this is a purely religious question, it should not be forgotten that religion in Russia is above all a political instrument in the hands of the Kremlin.” Furthermore, while he visited in Jerusalem, the Patriarch Alexey “took occasion to state that he was taking possession in the name of the Russian Church of all monasteries, convents, schools, and other property, which had previously been under the control of the Russian Church. Thus Russia took back after an interruption of 28 years its protectorate over the Orthodox Churches of the Near East without any voice having been raised in the West or in the East, as paradoxical as this may seem when at Yalta the Soviet Union refused to recognize any special rights of France in the Levant. Even the Arabs remained quiet on this score. Were even they taken in?” (761.00/11–2645)
  3. This delegation left Cairo, where it was on a journey with the Patriarch Alexey, and arrived in London on June 11, being met there by the Archbishop of York. For the visit of the latter to the Patriarch Sergey in 1943, see Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. iii, pp. 858859.