Anniversary of Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgia
By Messenger Staff
Monday, January 15Georgia celebrated Patriarch of Georgia, Ilia II's 80th birthday and the 35 year anniversary of his enthronization. The celebrations are confirmation of the authority of Orthodox Christianity in Georgia and the love and respect of the patriarch that exists within Georgian society.
It was indeed a very important political event. The Orthodox Church in Georgia was not only a religion for the country; for centuries Christianity was the part of preservation of the country’s identity– especially in the historic past when Georgia was maintaining Christianity as a national identity.
This was during the Soviet period when aggressive atheism dominated in the country. Orthodox Christianity preserves its influence in the post-Soviet period as well. For the last 35 years the leader of the Georgian Church has been Ilia II. He led the Georgian nation during the hardships of the Soviet Union, the transitional period and after regaining independence.
Before the collapse of the Soviet Union early morning on April 9, 1989, Ilia II was with his parish in front of the government building on Rustaveli Avenue warning people and asking them to move from the rally to the nearby church, as he knew that the Soviet Army would use brutal force against the peaceful population. He also tried to prevent ethnic conflicts in the Abkhazia and South Ossetia region.
All kinds of polls and research show that the Orthodox Church and the Georgian Patriarch always stand on the top of the list with their influence, popularity and authority. Political forces in Georgia despite their orientation, seek the blessing of the Patriarch.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili congratulated the Patriarch on his anniversary. Representatives of political parties also congratulated the Patriarch and wished him health and many years of life. Orthodox Church representatives throughout the world sent their delegations. Some delegations were personally led by the leaders of the churches. Russian President Vladimir Putin also sent a letter of congratulation to the Georgian Patriarch.
All the governments ruling Georgia since it regained its independence respectfully treated the church, realizing the importance of this institution for the country. However, in the last several years, some critical voices were heard against the Orthodoxy, which were tolerantly accepted by the leader of the Georgian Church. Very often Ilia II personally took responsibility and acted as the mediator during critical situations in the country. During the 2008 Russian invasion, Ilia II personally traveled to the conflict zone and participated in the process of releasing prisoners of war, returning the wounded and other humanitarian activities.
It is significant that right after the celebrations, the Patriarch’s visit to Russia is organized. It would be yet another attempt to reconcile the two nations – Georgia and Russia who share the same religion – Orthodox Christianity.
In his Christmas Epistle on January 7, Ilia II addressed the youth to resist “information attacks” and to not accept “pseudo values” in life. Parliamentary Chairman Davit Usupashvili recently said that due to the numerous errors in the Georgian political system, Patriarch Ilia II often had to take the burden on his shoulders, which was not at all his function. The Georgian Patriarch is the symbol of the unity of the country, reconciliation of all the political orientations and the integrity of the statehood.
The Messenger joins the general mood of the Georgian nation and wishes the Patriarch health and many years in his noble task.