From ALAN McELWA1N in Rome THE chaplain to Americans in Moscow since 1961, Fr. Joseph Richard, A.A.. will soon be relieved by Fr. Eugene Lapplante, A.A., aged 33, also an Assumptionist, Er. Lapplante, who was born at North Dartmouth, Mass., completed his secondary and philosophical studies at Assumption College. Worcester, Mass., entered the assumptionist fathers' novitiate in 1952, and completed his theological course at their study house at Layrac. near
Agen, in South-western France.
He was ordained there in 1958 and obtained a doctorate in canon law at the Lateran University, Rome. in 1963. Since then he has been teaching ethics and sociology at Assumption College. Worcester.
The American Catholic Chaplaincy in Moscow was set up as a result of the RooseveltLitvinov agreement in 1933. whereby the United States and the Soviet Union established diplomatic relations. A special clause recognised the right of Americans living in Moscow to have ministers of their own denominations.
The first Catholic chaplain . was Fr. Leopold Braun, 19341945. who died on July 18, 1964. He was succeeded by Frs. Antonio Labergc, 1945-1948: Louis Robert Brassard, 19491952: George Bissonnette, 19531955: Louis Dion, 1958-1961: and Joseph Richard.
The chaplain is not appointed to the Embassy but for any American Catholic in Moscow, whether at the Embassy or not. In practice. he acts as Chaplain for all the Catholics in the Moscow Diplomatic Corps.
Assumptionists have always filled the post. mainly because. when the Roosevelt-Litvinov agreement was signed, there was already a French Assumptionist, Bishop Pius Neveu, in Moscow as rector of the Church of St. Louis. He was one of a small group of Assumptionists who had been in Russia since 1903.
Frs. Braun and Laberge were allowed by the Russian authorities to use the Church of St. Louis. However, at the end of 1950. the Russians expelled Bishop Neveu's successor as rector of St. Louis and introduced a Latvian priest, a citizen of the Soviet Union to replace him.
The American Chaplains after Fr. Laberge have been allowed by the Russians to say Mass in the Church of St. Louis only on special occasions. For instance, after the death of Pope John XXIII. Fr. Richard was permitted to say a public requiem Mass there, in the presence of the diplomatic corps and of a Russian government representative.
The Russians claim that the Rooseveli-Litvinov agreement allowed for an American chaplain ill Moscow. but not normally for public services. Consequently, on weekdays he says Mass in his private chapel, dedicated to Our Lady of Hope, in his eighth-storey flat, and on Sundays also in the Argentine Embassy.
Though technically there is nothing to prevent the American chaplain from having contacts with Russians, in general he avoids doing so in order not to compromise the Russians concerned, who are never encouraged by their government to have close relations with Westerners.