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New religious law infuriates Orthodox followers

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, July 11
Thousands of people, led by priests from the Georgian Orthodox Church have angrily protested against the newly adopted law by the Parliament regarding the legal status of religions in Georgia. The peaceful march by the believers was one of the largest of its kind in recent times. With their action from July 9 , Georgians expressed their discontent towards the Georgian authorities' actions regarding the Georgian church and share the Patriarchate's and Catholic Patriarch Ilia ll 's negative reaction to the decision.

"Those who are fighting against the Church and degrading it, will unavoidably be punished," His Holiness and Beatitude Ilia II said after the divine service in the Trinity Cathedral, on July 10.

"Some of us are arrogant. Some of us think that only its saying is truth. Some wish to teach others, who at the same time do not know anything himself. We should remember that our sanctuary is the Holy Orthodox Apostolic Church. Many times the Church was under attack and degrading assaults. Whoever degrades the Church will be punished. Church is a holy place; it is a body of our lord Jesus Christ, "- Patriarch said.

Patriarch said the spiritual rising should start from the Church, and that The Church will save the nation.

"The Church will save us from our visible and invisible enemies and historically the Church always was defending the nation. The Church always was and is a great force, and this force is not directed against anyone, this force is for the people to be happy. That is why we should keep our Church." The Patriarch underlined that if someone was guilty of blasphemy, such a person's family and name will be destroyed, "We should pray for peace between government and nation. I ask my Lord to give us the strength and to raise our nation, "- Patriarch said.

Thousands of praying Georgians gathered in Sameba Cathedral on July 9, and the following day another, larger wave of Georgians prayed together and in Tbilisi churches. They were praying to change the decision and at the same time were expressing their negative attitude towards bio metric IDs.

The Georgian authorities do not intend to change their position regarding the issue. At the same time they exclude any additions to the decision (certain Georgian analysts and lawyers claim that additions in the law are possible), " we have already made a decision . I don't know what analysts and lawyers say about additions, maybe you talked with the fortune tellers, " MP , Pavle Kublashvili, said . Unlike most of Georgian society, the decision was encouraged by the U.S. embassy in Georgia, "Religious freedom is a fundamental human right and an essential element to any stable, peaceful, thriving society. Tolerance of fellow citizens’ beliefs is a cornerstone of all modern democratic societies,” the U.S. embassy said.

“We deeply respect and support the right of every citizen of this country to worship freely, without fear of intimidation or retribution, just as we acknowledge the Georgian Orthodox Church’s centrality to this society and its citizens – two principles that are both enshrined in Georgia’s Constitution,” said a statement from the US embassy.

According to the analyst and the member of opposition Republican Party, Vakhtang Khmaladze, the recent decision of the authorities does not give the right of delivering state property to the religious groups acting in the country, however he had doubts concerning some aspects of the law, "currently, based on the decision religious faiths which would be registered as a judicial entity of Public law are disabled regarding state property , if there is no other law adopted..."