NEW YORK (Oct. 15)
For the first time in the history of the Soviet Union, the chairman of the Council of Religious Affairs of the USSR — a post equivalent to that of Minister of Religion — will visit the United States, it was announced here.
The announcement was made last Thursday night by Rabbi Arthur Schneier, president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, at a dinner in The Pierre Hotel honoring Milton and Carroll Petrie and Vernon Walters, Ambassador of the United States to the United Nations.
Schneier said the Soviet official — Constantine Karchev — would arrive in the United States on October 19 for a 12-day stay as the guest of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, an ecumenical coalition of laymen and religious leaders concerned with religious freedom around the world.
At the dinner, Schneier presented awards in the form of Steuben crystal stars to Milton and Carroll Petrie — he is a noted philanthropist and chairman of the Petrie Stores Corporation — “for strengthening human dignity, social justice and the quality of life.” Walters was cited as a military officer and diplomat “who has served his country with distinction and strengthened international understanding among many nations.”
In announcing the visit of Karchev, Schneier stated that the Soviet official will meet with representatives of Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Jewish and Protestant lay and religious leaders. “He will observe at first hand the diversity of American religious life.” Schneier said Karchev’s itinerary in the United State will include visits to Atlanta, Washington and New York. Schneier, who is also the spiritual leader of the Park East Synagogue, told the 600 guests, “We are hopeful that Mr. Karchev’s visit to our country will lead to an expansion of contacts between religious communities in the United States and the Soviet Union.”
CONTACTS WITH CHINA
Schneier reported that the Appeal of Conscience Foundation had established “close and friendly relations” with the Academy of Social Sciences of the People’s Republic of China and that a series of exchanges had already taken place, with additional visits expected. In 1985 two Chinese scholars spent a year at American universities and theological seminaries under the Foundation’s auspices to study American religious life and thought.
“So positive were these experiences that further religious exchange agreements were reached,” Schneier said, noting: “The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences has accepted our invitation to Professor Gao Wangzhi, China’s leading authority on Christianity and Judaism, to study in the United States beginning early next year.” In addition, Chinese authorities have agreed to participate in a conference of Chinese and American scholars on religion and society to be convened by the Appeal of Conscience in New York next year. Books and periodicals will be exchanged by the Foundation and the Academy as well.”