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What’s the price of Novoafon Cathedral2011-05-24 11:19
The church conflict is gathering pace in Abkhazia. On May 15 Novy Afon saw the birth of a sacred metropole of the Abkhaz Orthodox Church - the victory of young clergy. Now it's time for the opponents to counteract. Vissarion Applia who has just lost the country's biggest Novy Afon monastery, is trying to play the situation back calling on the seceding priests to repent and refusing to deliver services with them in churches. Yet, all these events have an economic background.
On May 22-23 Novy Afon will host the largest monasterial holiday - the day of saint apostle Simon Kananit. On the occasion, the Abkhaz clergy will deliver services in Anakopy Metrolope of Novy Afon while the "old" clergy will serve in the Cathedral of Sukhum. This will be the first demonstration of schism. However, things could be much worse.
Traditionally the day of saint apostle Simon Kananit is celebrated in the monastery of Novy Afon. The old clergy chose this celebration for a counterrevolution, a sort of "crusade" of father Vissarion's supporters to the monastery. The campaign could have ended up in a clash if not for the intervention of politicians. Parties that support both the authorities and opposition convinced the clergy against going to Novy Afon assisted by NGOs.
After that, Vissarion Apliaa held a press conference making a series of loud statements. He accused the opponents of splitting the Abkhaz Orthodox Church, careerism, monk's conceit and violation of Orthodox canons. As Vissarion said, young priests recreated the already existing Church in order to seize the power.
According to him, "two ordinary clergymen of Maykop and Adyg eparchy of the Russian Orthodox Church, one of which was disallowed to conduct services, and the other was dismissed from services in Novo-Afon monastery, as well as one Georgian clergyman who did not ask to be blessed by the interim head of the Eparchy and the Church Council, organized an uncanonical church meeting in Novo Afon monastery".
The main point is that father Vissarion accused the young priests of pursuing hostile interests and attempts to bring the Abkhaz Church under the influence of Constantinople with the help of modern IT and foreign financial aid.
Let's not retranslate the argument between two camps of church confrontation in Abkhazia. Let's take a more secular, economic look at the situation instead.
Late last year the Abkhaz Church was the country's largest landowner. Under the order of the government, the church acquired the right of unlimited use of buildings and lands in the territory of 38 facilities, i.e. present-day or former Orthodox churches. The overall amount of facilities in the list prepared by the Abkhaz Church is 80.
It was at that time that the conflicts began. The government did not include territories of Pitsunda cathedral and Novo Afon monastery into church assets. A remark for those who did not see these places - these are two largest Christian centers of Abkhazia. Novy Afon is probably the most frequently visited Orthodox shrine throughout Caucasus. Hundreds of thousands of tourists and pilgrims come to see the place annually. This is not just a monastery and infrastructure around it, this is an immense business site around the monastery and, though it sounds cynical, a turnover of dozens of millions of dollars.
That is why the Abkhaz government was far-sighted enough not to transfer the monastery to the Church thinking that serious conflicts might arise.