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President and Prime Minister visit patriarchate on Orthodox New Year’s Eve

By Ana Robakidze
Tuesday, January 15
Patriarch Ilia II hosted the President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili, Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili and chairperson of parliament Davit Usupashvili at the Patriarchate on Orthodox New Year’s Eve. The reception was attended by the World Patriarch Bartholomew I, who visits Tbilisi on the occasion of the 80th birthday of the Georgian Patriarch Ilia II, and by other high rank religious figures, including Serbian Orthodox Church Patriarch Irinej and interim leader of Bulgarian Orthodox Church Metropolitan Cyril of Varna and Veliki Preslav and others.

“Let 2013 be the year of love. The representatives of the government are obliged to continue the love that the Patriarch gave us and start building the country with this love. We must manage and calm our country and continue living only with love,” PM Ivanishvili said in his greeting speech, adding that noted that the government of Georgia will start to build the country with only love.

“The Patriarch gained enormous love of the people only with the love he has been spreading himself.” Ivanishvili said.

President Saakashvili spoke about the role that Ilia II and the church has played in the history of Georgia. “In times when Georgia did not exist as a state the church was bringing the idea of Georgia to life.” Saakashvili said. The president also expressed his hope that the Patriarch will intervene and detect any process that may bring the country back into the “Russian orbit.”

Saakashvili also addressed Patriarch Bartholomew I in his speech and thanked him for the visit. “You are visiting not only the Patriarch, but you have been a guest to all Georgian people. Your visit to Georgia is a clear confirmation to how important is the role of our Patriarch in Orthodox world.”

The Patriarch of Georgia commented to journalist later, that the meeting held in the Patriarchate was distinguish and an expression of an expression of love and respect. “There probably has not been such a case in Georgia for over 2,000 years that patriarchs of three Orthodox churches and high-ranking ecclesiastics of the independent churches spent the Orthodox New Year together in Georgia.” Ilia II stated, he also mentioned that the ecclesiastics gave their blessing to Georgia and the whole world.

While speaking to media, the patriarch blessed journalists and said that the journalists are the ones capable to “change viewpoints” and reminded them to air good deeds that take place, along with the issues they usually cover, “to give people hope in the future”, Ilia II said.

The World Patriarch Bartholomew I commented on his visit right before his departure and said that the whole nation is united around the Georgian Orthodox Church and this was clearly visible during the meeting he attended at the Patriarchate on January 13th. He congratulated Georgia on the New Year and wished the whole nation to stay united and maintain peace and love. “We are very happy to see Georgian youth and their attitude to the faith. I watch them and realize how different they are from European youth,” he said.