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The Patriarch’s political and economic messages

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, April 21
Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II delivers a pastoral epistle to the nation twice yearly, at Easter and Christmas. These epistles have recently contained certain political hints. Given the authority of Ilia II in Georgia, they have very serious significance for the Georgian people.

The epistle issued this Easter contains certain political messages which could be interpreted in different ways. Ilia II does not highlight April 9 and the ongoing protest actions, and this was a surprise, as he has had plenty to say on the subject in the recent past.

On April 5 the Patriarch had asked us to pray for the peaceful conduction of the April 9 protests and expressed his hope that the country’s leadership could find ways to proceed which would be beneficial for Georgia. On April 7 he said “I hope peace will be established in Georgia. I hope that we will understand each other, will learn to listen to each other. Nobody should think that he is always right and there is truth only in him.” Just before the demonstrations on April 8 the Patriarch made a further statement in which he asked the leadership of the country not to use force against its own people and appealed to the opposition to do everything it could to ensure the peaceful development of the rallies. He also reminded the police and armed forces that their brothers and sisters were in front of them.

On April 8 the Patriarch also appealed to the Georgian Army not to use force and for soldiers not to confront their own brothers and sisters. He stated that a soldier who will raise his hand against his brother will be no good at protecting his homeland. These words were censored by some state-controlled TV stations, which caused indignation in the opposition. Immediately afterwards the TV stations said this was simply negligence and the Patriarch’s words were retransmitted in full.

In his Easter epistle the Patriarch did not touch on the rallies but paid much attention to how the leadership of the country should behave. He recalled two 17th century kings of Georgia, King Rostom who apostatized from the Christian religion and brought the country to the edge of spiritual collapse and King Teimuraz, who became the symbol of a warrior for God and national identity. According to the Patriarch history should inform present and future life and deeds. The epistle stresses that as well as securing territorial integrity the leaders of a country are obliged to preserve spiritual and national values and ensure the material welfare of the nation.

There is a statement in the epistle which gives ground to different interpretations, the one in which the Patriarch highlights that the state should protect national interests and this is axiomatic. The Patriarch states, “The state’s ideology should be determined not by external geopolitical factors but national interests. These interests should be accepted as the most important by the leadership of the country, other parties, NGOs and the mass media. The same could be said of our citizens, who have to preserve our identity, so that we do not become a blind weapon fulfilling others’ intentions. This is the guarantee of the continued existence and development of any country,” states the Easter epistle.

The Patriarch also stresses that the welfare of the country depends very much on its relations with neighbouring countries. “We should inevitably deepen our relationships with them and a precondition should be a dialogue between the cultures and representations of spiritual, scientific and material values of states, which will settle other issues prevailing between us as well,” his epistle states.

The development of the Georgian business sector and the creation of a wealthy middle class are also mentioned in the epistle. Support for small and medium-sized businesses is also stated as a priority. “Unfortunately the majority of our population, for objective or subjective reasons, lives below the poverty line.

Georgia has great potential to develop business,” it is written. The importance of producing ecologically pure agricultural products and state support in this direction are also recommended. Ilia II further supports the idea of declaring a financial amnesty, freeing all legal and physical entities from taxation liabilities and sanctions. At the end of his epistle the Patriarch appeals to the people not to become desperate in their present conditions as these have been inflicted on us to firm our belief.

Of course the political and economic advice of the Patriarch is not in any way binding on the administration. But they should certainly be taken into consideration, given the strong link between the Patriarch and the Georgian people. “Treat others as you want to be treated” is the main message of the epistle.