861.404/10–345: Telegram

The Chargé in the Soviet Union (Kennan) to the Secretary of State

3440. Re Dept’s 1506, July 3, 5 p.m. French Chargé has informed me that during recent visit to Paris he discussed Moscow Catholic Church situation with leading officials of Assumption and Jesuit orders respectively. He says it has been arranged that Father Laberge (who I understand has now received his visa) will come to Moscow in capacity of locum tenens. Meanwhile the French are endeavoring to obtain a visa either for Monseigneur Neveu, who was formerly here,6 or for Father Thomas,7 to come to Moscow to take charge of French Church here in which Father Braun has been officiating. It is my understanding that such an arrangement would not preclude Father Laberge’s participating in work of Church and giving spiritual aid to members of American colony. Dept will recall that Church in question is French Govt establishment and French Embassy is very conscious of its prerogatives in this connection.

I understand that French now have in Soviet Union one more Catholic priest who was liberated by Russians from German imprisonment in Estonia.8 This priest, who bears the somewhat unpromising name of Father Bourgeois, is evidently not considered by the French as entirely suitable for the Moscow Church, but they hope that if no hitch is encountered in admission of Father Laberge and a French priest, it will be possible to utilize services of Father Bourgeois in the Leningrad Catholic Church which has perforce remained closed for some years through lack of any clergyman to conduct services there.

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Would appreciate confirmation as to issuance of Father Laberge’s visa since this matter is still pending between Embassy and Foreign Office here.

  1. Pius (Pie) Eugène Neveu, a French Assumptionist who was the Apostolic Administrator of Moscow in 1926, in the spring of that year having secretly been made a bishop. He had remained in Moscow until 1936, when he returned to France for medical treatment. He was thereafter unable to obtain a visa for re-entry.
  2. Father Jean de Matha Thomas, who became assistant to Father Laberge and later succeeded him.
  3. Ambassador Harriman had reported in his telegram 2408 of July 4, 1945, the recent release of an elderly Jesuit French priest, Father Bourgeois, by the Red Army in Lithuania and his presence in Moscow (861.404/7–445).