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Patriarch blesses more children in effort to increase Georgian fecundity

By Eter Tsotniashvili
Wednesday, April 30
Continuing an initiative to boost the birth rate in Georgia, Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II baptized 100 more newborn babies at Tbilisi’s Sameba Cathedral yesterday.

There is a perception in Georgia that the nation faces demographic decline, a subject the Patriarch addressed in a December speech when he pledged to baptize every newborn third child and supply them with financial aid until their eighteenth birthday.

“We face a difficult demographic situation in Georgia, so one of the key priorities of the Patriarch's Charitable Foundation will be demographic projects,” he said at the time. The next month he baptized some 500 babies.

In his Easter sermon, the Patriarch announced a new initiative—promising to bless any family with four children or more—and called on businessmen to help support these families.

One Georgian mother, Nino, whose third baby was baptized by the Patriarch yesterday, said his offer is a good incentive to have a bigger family.

She added that given the apparent demographic crisis that Georgia faces, she hopes other Georgians will be encouraged to have more children.

“I understand that parents avoid having many children because of poor living conditions. But we should not be scared of this. God save all of you and your children,” she said.

Despite the concern about demographic decline, statistics from the Civil Registry Agency of the Justice Ministry show that the birth rate increased by nearly 5 percent between 2006 and 2007, while marriages were up 16 percent over the same period.

Last Sunday, the Orthodox Church celebrated Easter with Georgians exchanging the festive greetings “Christ has risen!” and “He has indeed risen!” Those who have kept Lent, which for Orthodox Christians consists of avoiding dairy products, traditionally end their fast when they break red painted eggs on Easter morning.