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

No. 193

For the Department’s information, Father Brassard, who arrived in Moscow January 20, 1950,1 has not as yet succeeded in obtaining registration with the Soviet authorities nor permission to perform services in the Church of St. Louis or on other premises here. The Embassy has intervened orally and also has communicated in writing with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but Father Brassard’s status is still in dispute.

Immediately following his arrival, Father Brassard in company with Father Thomas,2 his French colleague who has been officiating at certain specified hours at the Church of St. Louis, approached the responsible official in charge of the church requesting permission to perform services there for his Catholic co-religionists. He was informed that such permission could not be given as he was not registered with the Bureau for Visas and Registration of Foreigners (OVIR). Accordingly, Father Brassard called on the Ministry of Cults. He was informed by the latter, however, that as a foreigner he should apply at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In the circumstances, on the grounds that Father Brassard is in Moscow in accordance with the Roosevelt–Litvinov agreement of November 1933,3 the implementation of which was in question, Minister-Counselor Barbour called with Father Brassard on Mr. Saksin,4 Head of the American Section of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on January 26. A copy of a memorandum covering that conversation has been transmitted to the Department but is also enclosed for convenient reference.5 It will be noted that Mr. Saksin endeavored to maintain the thesis that Father Brassard had been permitted to come to Moscow on the basis of official status as Chaplain to the Embassy, [Page 1109] and inquired whether space could be made available for religious services on Embassy premises. The Embassy took issue with the Soviet contention concerning Father Brassard’s status and declined to make space on Embassy premises available. Finally, Mr. Saksin agreed to investigate the issue further and to inform the Embassy expeditiously.

Subsequently, Father Brassard continued his negotiations with the Bureau for Visas and Registration of Foreigners (OVIR) and was informed that he could not be registered as residing with Father Thomas since the building at that address is scheduled for demolition or major overhauling. In the light of that information and inasmuch as Father Brassard’s original entry permit is due to expire on February 19, the Embassy, for purposes of record, transmitted a note, No. C–75 of February 2, 1950,6 to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, requesting the Ministry’s assistance in providing hotel quarters or other suitable residence accommodations. In its reply No. 14 of February 9,6 which may also have been intended to constitute a response to the Embassy’s oral representations, the Ministry confirmed the inability of the Soviet authorities to register Father Brassard at Father Thomas’ residence and suggested that he reside on Embassy premises. That note further referred to Father Brassard as “priest of the Embassy” and inferred that his registration is the responsibility of the Administration for Services to the Diplomatic Corps.7 In a further communication to the Ministry, No. 18 of February 11, 1950,6 the Embassy took issue with the Ministry’s implications concerning Father Brassard’s official status, and in stating that the Embassy is requesting an hotel room for Father Brassard, sought the Ministry’s assistance in that connection. Copies of the two notes from the Embassy and a translation of that from the Ministry are also enclosed. There has been no response to the Embassy’s No. 18 nor has Intourist8 replied to a letter of February 13 transmitting the request for an hotel room.

It may be noted that during these negotiations, the French Embassy has concurrently been endeavoring to obtain further quarters for Father Thomas and it seems probable that an apartment in a new building into which he and Father Brassard may move will be available very shortly, thus removing the ostensible grounds for the Soviet attitude.

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The Embassy will continue to endeavor to assist Father Brassard with a view to obtaining Soviet implementation of its 1933 agreement.

For the Ambassador:
Walworth Barbour

  1. Father John Odillon Arthur Brassard was a member of the Assumptionist Order. He had left New York by airplane on January 15, 1950, for Helsinki and thence by railroad to the Soviet Union.
  2. Father Jean de Matha Thomas was a French Catholic priest.
  3. This agreement was contained in an exchange of letters on November 16, 1933, between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the then People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union Maxim Maximovich Litvinov signed in Washington at the time of the recognition by the United States of the Soviet Union, Foreign Relations, The Soviet Union, 1933–1939, pp. 2933.
  4. Georgy Filippovich Saksin.
  5. Not printed.
  6. Not printed.
  7. Not printed.
  8. Burobin, an official organization closely affiliated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union.
  9. Not printed.
  10. The All-Union Society for Foreign Tourism in the Soviet Union, the official travel agency.