Volume #15 - 1001.|
EUROPE, UNION SOVIÉTIQUE ET MOYEN‑ORIENT
Le chargé d'affaires en Tchécoslovaquie|
au secrétaire d'État aux Affaires extérieures
le 14 mars 1950|
2. The United Kingdom Minister, Mr. Paul Mason, and members of the Legation staff went to a great deal of trouble to make information available and to enable me to meet diplomatic representatives of other countries. I had discussions with the chiefs of mission and other members of the staffs of the missions of the United Kingdom, United States, France, Italy, and Turkey, and all of these were helpful and informative.
3. As regards my interviews with Bulgarian officials I am afraid that only a rather long and detailed account can convey a picture of the most remarkable performance that I have ever witnessed in a Foreign Ministry. It was my view, and the United Kingdom Minister agreed, that I should not hide the reason for my visit from the Bulgarian authorities‑in applying for a visa I had neither given nor been asked for a reason‑and should ask them whether anyone would care to discuss the question of religious freedom with me and explain the policy of the government. I wanted to avoid the charge that I had sneaked into Sofia and picked up my information only from foreigners whose minds were already poisoned. The British Legation therefore tried to make an appointment for me at the earliest possible time with the Chief of Protocol. An appointment was arranged for the afternoon of March 10 but when I reached the Foreign Ministry I was told that the official in question had been called away by something very urgent. This was no great surprise for I had thought it more than possible that the Bulgarians would prefer to ignore me altogether and this might simply be a characteristic Bulgarian way of doing so. However, to give the Bulgarians every opportunity to state their case, 1 returned to the charge and got to see the Chief of Protocol at 12.30 the next day. I had to tell him that I would be leaving Sofia the following day, and rather to my surprise he made no difficulties and promised to see what he could do. During the afternoon I received a message that M. Ganovsky, one of the two Deputy Foreign Ministers, would receive me at 6.20, and he did.
4. After a very brief and trite exposition of the glories of religious freedom in Bulgaria M. Ganovsky cut short my questions (saying that he would return to them later) in order to parade before me representatives of the principal religious denominations in Bulgaria. I doubt whether there is a cult, creed or congregation in Bulgaria numbering more than a thousand members which was not represented. An ante‑room was packed with religious leaders in every variety of clerical and unclerical costume, and these unfortunate people were brought in in ones and twos to testify, under the far from benevolent gaze of M. Ganovsky, to the perfect freedom which their churches enjoyed. After the first hour I began to wonder if the procession would ever end. The roster was as follows:
(a) Orthodox Church‑a member of the Holy Synod and the dean of the Orthodox Theological faculty at the university.
(b) Union of Priests (a trade union of all Orthodox priests which does not include the higher clergy and which is government‑dominated)‑one of its leaders.
(c) Armenian Church (with headquarters in Soviet Armenia)‑its senior bishop and a colleague.
(d) Catholic Church‑two senior members of a religious order.
(e) Evangelical Churches‑a Congregationalist pastor.
(f) Jews‑the Chief Rabbi.
(g) Moslems‑the Chief Mufti.
5. When it is realized that these dignitaries were rounded up and the performance staged on five and a half hours' notice one must pay tribute to the organizing ability of the Bulgarian authorities. The unanimity with which the religious leaders expressed their love for the government, and their gratitude for a freedom of religion that had never before existed in Bulgaria, was offered to me as unchallengeable proof of the government's case. Actually what impressed me most was the cruelty of the proceedings. Under the baleful glare of M. Ganovsky, and given the methods of a totalitarian state, these clergymen had no alternative but to parrot the official government line. Most of them gave the impression of being frightened and sub‑ dued, for which they cannot be blamed. I was urged to ask any and every question that occurred to me, and in addition to the obvious answers I was treated in several cases to voluntary statements that had clearly been prepared beforehand. It was a depressing experience.
6. The only slightly sour note in this symphony of unanimity was provided by the Catholic representatives. They alone were not prepared to say that they approved of everything that had been done, and with regard to the future they hoped for the best but would have to wait and see how government policy was administered. This refusal to give whole‑hearted approval led to a fairly long and brisk conversation between the Catholics, M. Ganovsky, and the Chief of Protocol who was acting as interpreter. None of this conversation was translated for me and I can only assume that it was judged unsuitable for my ears. Foreign observers believe that (lie Catholic church is undecided whether to toe the government line for the time being or to announce its disapproval of certain government policies. If it follows the latter course it will be next on the list for persecution. The incident just mentioned provides some ground for believing that the Catholic Church is prepared to run this risk.
7. When the last of the clergy had been ushered out M. Ganovsky said that he had an urgent appointment with the Foreign Minister and would have to terminate the interview. AN it had lasted for an hour and three quarters and the time was well past 8 p.m. 1 could hardly object even though certain questions which 1 had put remained unanswered. M. Ganovsky's concluding gambit was to ask my reaction to the drama that had been staged for me and I could only reply that I was impressed by the truly remarkable unanimity of the speakers. I do not think I was misunderstood.
I have, etc.