News from Holy Synod
By Salome Modebadze
Thursday, December 23
Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia the Second was titled as His Holiness and Beatitude, Catholicos Patriarch of All Georgia, Archbishop of Mtskheta-Tbilisi, Metropolitan of Bichvinta and Tskhum-Abkhazia on December 21. According to the historical decision made by the Holy Synod His Holiness was handed Tskhum-Abkhazia eparchy on the grounds of historic documents considering the current situation in Georgia. In an official statement released by the Georgian Patriarchate His Eminence the former Metropolitan of Tskhum-Abkhazia Daniel (Datuashvili) was thanked for his great merit and was appointed the Metropolitan of Chiatura and Sachkhere.
Welcoming the decision, the Head of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia Gia Baramia stressed the importance of truthful leadership of the Georgian Apostolic Church and the great consolation for the desperate people in the occupied Abkhazian territories and those living in exile for so many years. “Territorial integrity and the unity of the Apostolic Church based on the international legal norms and the religious legislation are the indivisible parts of the Georgian statehood thus Bichvinta and Tskhum-Abkhazia eparchies should definitely be highlighted among the other titles of His Holiness,” Baramia said. He was also confident that the merciful path of his Holiness which has started in Abkhazia would be crowned with the reconciliation of Georgian and Abkhazian people.
Leader of the Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM) Giorgi Targamadze expressed his gratitude towards handing Tskhum-Abkhazia eparchy to His Holiness as one more historic decision of great political and cultural significance for the country. Talking about the importance of the historical decision, Targamadze stressed that it would become a “distinct signal” to the whole Christian world, especially to our Northern Orthodox neighbor - Russia. “The situation in the occupied territories is a very important issue for the Georgian Church. Such identification of the canonic borders of Georgian Church once again underlines that Abkhazia is represented personally by the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia. This fact should be considered by Russian Orthodox Church, our church is recognizing Abkhazia as a part of the canonic territories of the Georgian Church,” Targamadze told the media hoping that this very decision would put an end to the idea of recognizing independence of the Abkhazian Church and avoid vandalism in the Georgian temples, monuments an sites cultural heritage Abkhazia.
Analyst in conflict issues Paata Zakareishvili worried that the transmission of Tskhum-Abkhazia eparchy to His Holiness Ilia the Second may become the subject of irritation among the Abkhazian people. “Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia has the greatest authority not only over Georgia or the Orthodox society but the whole world. Abkhazians themselves respect His Holiness. But unfortunately they had been mistaken in understanding the sermon of His Holiness during the military activities [in 2008]. Ilia the Second had then spoke about the unpardoned sin caused by murdering Georgians… Abkhazians then wondered whether those who killed Abkhazians were not also sinners.” Zakareishvili said explaining that His Holiness had meant that all the Georgians including Abkhazians in his sermon.
The church according to Zakareishvili can be a serious additional lever in dealing with the existing problems among Georgians and Abkhazians, but doubted the success of the unilateral steps.
“No particular results can be seen before Georgia changes its overall policy towards Abkhazia. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili refrains from talking to Abkhazians considering them as marionettes of Russia… This time Abkhazians will find a more political rather than religious context in handing Tskhum-Abkhazia eparchy to His Holiness and start claiming that they are being treated with improper methods,” the analyst said and explained that any initiative towards Abkhazians will be immediately discredited.
There were several other issues which the Holy Synod determined at the meeting. They discussed the conditions of the clergy working in poor villages and the decision to provide them with the financial assistance was confirmed by the Synod. Those, who are being sent from regions to acquire education at Tbilisi Ecclesiastic Seminary, should according to Synod return to their eparchies. A reminder was also given to all the churches within the Georgian Patriarchate to ensure Georgian polyphonic singing remains part of their services, stressing that canonical measure will be used in case of violation. There will be a special commission chaired by Metropolitans Anania (Japaridze) and Shio (Mujiri) and Archibishop Ioane (Gamrekeli) which will study the materials regarding people waiting to be canonized as saints. Moreover the bishop of Dedoplistskharo eparchy will be called its historical name: Khornabuji and Herreti Governor, and Tsurtavi Bishop Jacob (Iakobashvili) was appointed Gardabani and Martkopi Bishop.