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Between Two Churches2009-09-16 19:57
Head of the Abkhazian Church Vissarion officially declared separation from the Georgian Orthodox Church. This decision was jointly taken by all the church officers of the diocese. Meanwhile, the authorities of South Ossetia also thought it necessary to protect their Church which is not yet recognized worldwide. They are not satisfied with the position of the Russian clergy who acknowledge the right of the Georgian Orthodox Church (GOC) for the spiritual charge of the parish of the independent republic. It looks like the diocese of Alania is going to follow the Abkhazian diocese and declare autocephaly. However, neither the Russian, nor the Georgian Orthodox Church will ever recognize them. Heads of
the newly formed dioceses are taking the risk of being excommunicated with a label of dissenters.
The Abkhazian Orthodox Church has proclaimed autocephaly on its own. Now it no longer considers itself to be part of the Georgian Church. This was stated today by acting administrator of the Sukhum-Abkhaz diocese priest Vissarion. "After the Georgian-Abkhazian war, we, the Orthodox priests of Abkhazia, made more than one statement and applied to all upper Orthodox instances but they all kept silent for they did not want to mar relationship with the Georgian diocese", - he reminded of numerous appeals to Moscow patriarchy to admit the Abkhazians under its protection. Moscow ignored these appeals. At present, the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) is opposed to Constantinopolitan Patriarchate, whose protection was sought by the self-proclaimed Kiev Patriarchate that is pressing the Russian Church in Ukraine.
Vissarion's statement is based upon the decision taken recently by all the church officers of the diocese that held a meeting on the matter. "So long as since 1943 the Sukhum-Abkhazian diocese was subordinated to the Georgian Catholicosate and the territory of Abkhaiza was forcibly attached to the Georgian Church, today we may declare our independence, - the priest is justifying the decision. - We are going to restore the Abkhazian local church with two dioceses: Pitsundskaya and Sukhumskaya. The main cathedral was earlier located in Pitsunda".
Vissarion said that he would apply to the Russian Orthodox Church for help in restoring autocephaly. However, its position is defined rather clearly: ROC supports canonical boundaries of the Georgian Orthodox Church which include Abkhazia and South Ossetia, though "in fact, the Georgian Church is not present in these territories". Three days ago this was again stated by head of the External Church Relations Department of Moscow Patriarchate Illarion Archbishop of Volokolamsk.
These words caused much indignation in South Ossetia. In an interview given to IA Res the South-Ossetian Presidential Envoy for Religious Affairs Sonya Khubaeva stated that South Ossetia is a recognized state with all the attributes of statehood, which means it has the right for its own national church.