Two members of the United National Movement, Sergo Ratiani and Zurab Japaridze, called on the Georgian Patriarchate to refrain from making assessments regarding Russia that might harm Georgian interests. Statements concerning the issue were made late on January 27 and were swiftly responded to by various political figures and the Patriarchate’s press service.
Patriarch overstep his boundaries-UNM members claim
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, January 29
Ratiani and Japaridze emphasized that in any modern country the government and church are separated and are engaged in its own businesses. The MPs underscored that the situation in Georgia is different recently and the church is actively involved in both the domestic and foreign affairs of Georgia.
“Political actions require political assessments and we think that the Patriarch’s visit to Russia should also be estimated,” Japaridze and Ratiani stated, adding that the Patriarchate’s attitude that normal relations should be restored with Russia is natural. However, the fact that one fifth of our country is being occupied by the Russian Federation should not be forgotten.
“In such a situation, speaking with the leader of the occupying state with reverence will not be profitable for Georgian interests,” the two MPs suggested.
Ratiani and Japaridze also stated that the Patriarchate’s claims that worsening of relations between the states was a merit of concrete individuals are anti-state and serving Russian interests only. They also reminded the Georgian patriarchate that for hundreds of years, Russia has been fighting against Georgian statehood and the church, disguising this battle with the mask of peace defender.
Fellow MP of the National Movement Davit Darchiashvili gathered the appeal. According to him no one opposes the church. However, the church has its unique duty and additional statements concerning Georgia’s foreign policy and the Russian president are wrong.
The Georgian Patriarchate responded to the assessments stating that the attitude of the two members of the United National Movement do not reflect the general view concerning the trip.
Father Mikael Botkoveli stated that the United National Movement had a chance to solve Georgian-Russian problems over a nine-year period, but they failed. Moreover, they pushed the relations into a crisis.
“They are no longer in the government and should let the current government regulate the issue,” Botkoveli stated.
The Father Botkoveli also underscored the fact that Georgians did not vote for the United National Movement is a sign that the public was not satisfied with the course of the former leadership.
“Their politics regarding Russia and some other issues were unacceptable to the public. I want to calm the National Movement and remind them that they are no longer in power and their assessments are less noteworthy than they were some period ago,” Botkoveli said, adding that a large part of Georgian society positively took to the Patriarch’s meetings in Russia.
Analyst in Caucasus issues Mamuka Areshidze stated that there is readiness for positive changes regarding two occupied regions of Georgia; as well as the chance that Russian interference in de-facto issues will be reduced.
“Japaridze and Ratiani should explain more what they meant. Did they mean that Ilia the II's visit was negative or what? The patriarch has never made such step that might harm the state's interests unlike the National Movement,” the analyst said, adding that the meetings were positive and aimed at understanding the general mood of different Russian spectrum towards Georgia.
After several days in Russia, the Patriarch Ilia II returned home on January 26. He called the meetings in Russia historical and stated that the trip will be followed with good outcomes for the two countries’ relations.