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Concern over possible punishment of priests

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, December 23
A meeting of the Holy Synod was held at the Patriarchate on December 22, at which some important Church-related issues were discussed. It had been suggested before the meeting that one such issue would be Archpriests Zaza Tevzadze and Father Kakhaber Kurtanidze and their punishment. Patriarch Ilia II chaired the meeting and all 37 synod members attended it.

A special press conference had been held on December 21 at which Tea Tutberidze, of the Liberty Institute, said that if Fathers Tevzadze and Kurtanidze were punished it would be for signing a petition its members had drawn up. "Punishing these two priests would be unjust and an insult to all the 233 men who signed it,” Tutberidze said. The signatories of the petition had demanded that the Patriarch answer questions such as, what was the relationship between the Patriarchate of Georgia and the KGB? Were clergymen of the Georgian Orthodox Church agents of KGB? Did Patriarch Ilia II cooperate with it? Why did the Patriarch not plead for clemency for the clergyman Teodore Chikhladze, who was shot in 1983 for hijacking a plane? What is the current relationship between the Patriarchate of Georgia and the Government of the Russian Federation? What are the goals of the meetings between senior hierarchs of the Georgian Orthodox Church and Russian Ministers Karasin, Shvidkoi and Kovalenko? Why does the Patriarch support the independence of the churches of the Ukraine and Estonia?

“We have the full right to ask these questions and request answers to them. These were questions asked by citizens on the internet. Internet users discussed these issues but unfortunately this matter did not reach the TV audience. Any answer, even ignoring the questions, can be considered a reply,” said Tea Tutberidze at a special press conference on December 3.

Father Avtandil Dumbadze, who was present at the meeting, has described the Liberty Institute's conduct as anti-Church behavior. “These are fabricated questions designed to discredit the Church. They are concerned because the Church has a high rating in society. They are eager to get more and more grants for themselves and rely on foreign donors and our enemies who conduct an anti-Church and anti-State policy for money. With the help of God they will not succeed,” Dumbadze said.

After the meeting no official comments were made by the Patriarchate side concerning the archpriests. Its press service said that it would announce its decision later, without giving an exact date.