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President awards the Patriarch with Shota Rustaveli medal

By Mzia Kupunia
Friday, December 31
Georgian President, Mikhiel Saakashvili awarded the Georgian Patriarch Ilia II with the Shota Rustaveli gold medal for his “special efforts in establishing modern Georgian icon painting and church music." Speaking at the opening of newly renovated opera house in Kutaisi on December 29th, the Georgian President said that the Georgian Patriarch has been an important part of the Georgian identity.

“I want you all to remember 1977, when 33 years ago, his holiness became the head of our church. These were years when the children, part of the Soviet nomenclature, used to only go to Russian schools, when rejecting everything Georgian was encouraged..." "You remember this period very well,” Saakashvili noted, adding that despite this, Georgia managed to maintain its “strong identity”. “This enables Georgia to stand on its feet, resist and show an example of alternative development, show what it means to be an internally independent nation. A very important part of this identity is of course our church, but our church would be nothing without its head,” he stated.

Saakashvili compared Ilia II with Ilia Chavchavadze, the 19th century Georgian writer, poet and publicist, saying that “Ilia Chavchavadze managed to create an absolutely new Georgian identity, based on our many centuries of traditions.” “Just like this, in the 1970s when the Georgian identity was under its greatest threat, Ilia II appeared. We have stumbled many times, have made mistakes and have suffered many problems. However, our identity has brought us here now and our identity will reunite Georgia eventually,” the President noted.

Saakashvili praised the Patriarch for being a person who is “always able to create something new." “He is young. Ave Maria, which you heard here today, was created by him just several months ago. I personally saw this in Germany,” he said. “When nobody cared about Georgian culture our Patriarch established the best choir in the patriarchate and constantly organized concerts. He started reviving the tradition of Georgian icon painting with his own hands. Without his efforts not only our identity, but our culture would not have been revived,” the President added.

The Patriarch thanked the President, saying that “in each of us there is a Georgian gene” and that the bearers of the Georgian gene can create “unique pieces of work”. “When the Holy Trinity Cathedral was built, I said that the Georgian people built its self portrait. So, there is nothing to be surprised by. It is a surprising fact that some people are not able to reveal the talent they have inside and it should be revealed with your help,” the Patriarch said.