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The News in Brief

Tuesday, January 5
Catholics Patriarch turns 83

The Patriarch of Georgia, His Holiness Ilia the Second turned 83 on 4 January.

Ilia II was born as Irakli Ghudushauri-Shiolashvili in Vladikavkaz, in North Ossetia, now part of the Russian Federation. He is a descendant of the influential eastern Georgian mountainous clan with family ties with the Bagrationi royal dynasty.

He graduated from the Moscow clerical seminary and was ordained as a hierodeacon in 1957 and hieromonk in 1959; he graduated from the Moscow clerical academy in 1960 and returned to Georgia, where he was assigned to the Batumi Cathedral Church as a priest. In 1961, he was promoted to hegumen and later to archimandrite. On August 26, 1963, he was chosen to be the bishop of Batumi and Shemokmedi and appointed a patriarchal vicar. From 1963 to 1972 he was also the first rector of the Mtskheta Theological Seminary - the only clerical school in Georgia at that time.

In 1967, he was consecrated as the bishop of Tskhumi and Abkhazeti and elevated to the rank of metropolitan in 1969. After the death of the controversial Patriarch David V, he was elected the new Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgia on December 25, 1977. He began a course of reforms, enabling the Georgian Orthodox Church, once suppressed by the Soviet ideology, to largely regain its former influence and prestige by the late 1980s. In 1988 there were 180 priests, 40 monks, and 15 nuns for the faithful, who were variously estimated as being from one to three million. There were 200 churches, one seminary, three convents, and four monasteries. During the last years of the Soviet Union, he was actively involved in Georgia's social life. He joined the people demonstrating in Tbilisi against Soviet rule on April 9, 1989, and fruitlessly urged the protesters to withdraw to the nearby Kashueti Church to avoid bloodshed. This peaceful demonstration was dispersed by Soviet troops, leaving behind 22 dead and hundreds injured. During the civil war in Georgia in the 1990s, he called on the rival parties to find a peaceful solution to the crisis.

From 1978 to 1983, Ilia II was Co-President of the World Council of Churches (WCC), an ecumenical organization the Georgian Orthodox Church had joined with other Soviet churches in 1962. In May 1997, the Holy Synod of the Georgian Orthodox Church announced its withdrawal from the WCC.

For the last 35 years, the number of Georgian church eparchies increased from 15 to 39. Some tens of churches and monasteries were built, new saints were canonized and the biggest church of Georgia, St. Trinity Temple was built.

President Margvelashvili approves two major legislative changes

A witness will no longer be obliged to appear before law enforcers to be questioned before the case goes to court for a trial.

Police will no longer be eligible to evict anyone from misappropriated real estate without a relevant court decision.

Both of these changes will soon be implemented as Georgia’s President Giorgi Margvelashvili has signed the relevant laws.

Margvelashvili approved two controversial changes into Georgian legislation – one about the rules of witness questioning and the other about abolition of the police eviction mechanism that has been in place since 2007.

The Georgian’s President’s Parliamentary Secretary Giorgi Kverenchkhiladze assessed the new rule of questioning as a positive change. However, he said there were several types of crimes the change would not yet apply to.

"Application of the new witness questioning rule to several crimes has been postponed again and they will be fully implemented later,” Kverenchkhiladze said.

"We hope that the new rule will soon apply to those crimes too and it will not be postponed again.”

According to the old regulations, a person was legally obliged to appear before law enforcement agencies and prosecutors if summoned as a witness in the process of investigation even before the case goes to court for a trial. Now this practice has become optional for a witness.

The practice was criticised by human rights groups, who argued that it created possibility for undue pressure on witnesses to produce statement favorable for the prosecution.

As for the second changed signed today about abolishing of police eviction, Kverenchkhiladze said it fully met the western standards.

The amendments deprived the property owner of the opportunity to request police eviction of a person who allegedly misappropriated his or her real estate. For obtaining the mentioned right, the owner has to appeal to a court, whose verdict will decide the issue.

"We believe this contributes to the strengthening the idea of national law and order and rule of law,” Kverenchkhiladze said.