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Georgia Church delegation in Moscow

By Salome Modebadze
Monday, November 10
On November 4 Georgian Orthodox Church representatives met Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin, in the first official visit between the countries since the August war. The Georgian delegation was led by Metropolitan Gerasim of Zugdidi and Tsaishi, Chairman of the Church’s Foreign Relations Department, who was accompanied by Zurab Abashidze, Georgia's former Ambassador to Russia.

At a meeting with Patriarch Aleksey II of the Russian Orthodox Church at the Danilov Monastery in central Moscow on Thursday, the parties discussed the problems of Georgian eparchies in the breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and the issue of reestablishing the control of the Georgian Orthodox Church over these eparchies. The religious leaders emphasized the role of the Churches in overcoming the conflict, and also discussed the problems brought about by the August war.

The Russian Orthodox Church has recognized the integrity of the Georgian Orthodox Church by refusing to accept the Orthodox churches of breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia under its jurisdiction at a meeting of the Russian Holy Synod on October 6, 2008. The Russian Patriarchate also stressed that it stood apart from politics. “Political decisions don’t determine issues of Church jurisdiction. The Patriarch of All Russia has always supported the unity of the Georgian Church”, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, the Deputy Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, stated.

Russian Patriarch Aleksey II has declared the August war between Georgia and Russia a real tragedy. He said that the Russian Church always called for peace, dialogue and stability and had always had friendly relation with Georgian Orthodox Church. According to the Russian Patriarch, these relations will never change whatever the political situation is.

Metropolitan Kyril of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, who chairs the Foreign Relations Department of the Moscow Patriarchate, said that canonical jurisdiction in these two regions was a most painful and difficult issue, which may not be resolved today or tomorrow. “These two canonical territories are under the Georgian Church’s jurisdiction, not ours, but the Georgian Church has not been able to take spiritual care of parishes in Abkhazia and South Ossetia”, he noted.

Zurab Abashidze described the meeting as “quite frank and quite critical.” “Right now, in principle, this is the only thread, the only channel, that connects the two countries and the two peoples, this Church tie,” he said. The representatives of both Orthodox Churches expressed their hope of settling this burning issue by means of Church-led communication between the two countries and the two nations. The believe some kind of transitional solution should be found for this problem.

Patriarch Ilia II of the Georgian Orthodox Church won’t be able to make any foreign trips for a while due to his illness. The Georgian Patriarchate’s Press Centre has released no additional information about the results of the Georgian Church delegation’s meeting in Moscow as of yet.