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Election fever felt in church

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, July 26
The upcoming elections in Georgia are having an influence on the Georgian Orthodox church as well. Some members of the clergy have openly shown an affinity for specific candidates and parties. Some support President Saakashvili and his team– others criticize the current leadership and support the Georgian Dream and its leader. There is policy to keep the church and politics separate. However, not all religious within the hierarchy abide by this rule. For instance, Shio Gabrichidze from Shavnabada Monastery stated in one of the sermons: “I do not want to see those among my parish who do not like the president. They are devils…” Whereas Father Stepane from Kareli St. Nicolas Church openly supports the opposition coalition: “Those who do not support the Georgian Dream will not be admitted to the church.”

The issue became most acute after Father Iobi attended the recent opposition rally in Gori. So on July 5, the Georgian Holy Synod ordered that they should no longer express their political opinion, as this could cause confrontations among the parish. Most active are those who are supporting the opposition. During the service on July 8, Father Iobi criticized the ruling power accusing them of putting pressure on the church. The clergyman complains that high level clergymen are meeting political figures, the president, the parliament chair, whereas ordinary priests are restricted to do so. Of course the ruling power is using its advantage and publicly criticizing those clergymen who support the opposition. For instance, Rustavi 2, criticized Father Iobi. As a result, representatives of the Georgian Orthodox church held a protest meeting in front of the TV channel. Father Elizbar Diakonidze in particular stated that those who criticized Father Iobi will go to hell. Some analysts think that this is a very unfortunate fact and feel that the clergy should not get involved in such matters.