The Church as the Caucasian peace-maker19.06.2009 | 23:05
No use looking forward to any profound changes in the Georgian-Russian relationship after the Georgian hierarchs' visit to Moscow. The issues of subordination and mutual support in the religious world are settled without any reference to interstate connections. However, in this case, things may go worse, for, unlike the Russian Orthodox Church, the Georgian Church does not separate the matters of religion from political reality.
The day before, five clergymen of the Georgian Patriarchy arrived in Russia at the invitation of the Russian Orthodox Church. According to Patriarchy, the delegation is led by the Bishop of Zugdidi and Tsaish Master Gerasim. The Georgians are going to be received by His Holiness Kirill Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.
The purpose of the visit is formed in summary: "the issues to be touched upon will be the issues of relationship between the Georgian and Russian Orthodox Church, as well as the religious and other issues". Meanwhile, in April, Metropolitan Gerasim of Zugdidi had said that the Georgian Patriarchy is counting upon the Russian Church's assistance in organizing the visit of Ilia the Second Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia to Abkhazia and is negotiating the matter of cooperation with the Russian Orthodox Church staff. It seems like this question is going to become the main purpose of the Georgian clergymen's visit to Russia.
As soon as Russia recognized Abkhazia's independence, the representatives of the Abkhazian church turned to the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) seeking its protection. Their request was rejected, for the Russian Church does not want to quarrel with the Georgian Church (GOC); however, it has recognized the independent secular power in Sukhum and Tskhinval. This February, while sending to Sergey Bagapsh and Eduard Kokoity the letters of gratitude for their congratulations on occasion of his election as Patriarfch, Patriarch Kirill addressed them as presidents.
The state boundaries are no obstacle for the Church. Thus, the power of Vatican reaches Great Britain, German, the Czech Republic and other countries regardless of their political relations and geographic location. It means the Abkhazian Church, as well as the South-Ossetian one, could stay under GOC without any damage to its independence that has been earned with blood. Still, there is a "but". The Abkhazians are eager to obtain complete independence of the Georgians and do not want the local congregation to be led by the people of the Georgian Patriarch Ilia II. There is an explanation to that. For them, Catholicos is no longer a spiritual leader due to his over-politicized position. Not only is he interfering in the domestic squabbles of the opposition and the authorities but is also coming out flat against the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia at the international level.
On June, 12, Ilia II in his letter addressed the UN Secretary General Pan Gi Moon asking the latter to support the territorial integrity of the Georgian state. "I am addressing the UN members and Mr. Pan Gi Moon in particular, asking them to find the methods and possibilities of peaceful recovery of the Georgian territorial integrity. I am addressing you with great hope. The world is facing a large number of global problems that require urgent solving; however, the truth is above them. The truth of at least such a small country as Georgia", - the primate of the Georgian Orthodox Church appealed. Perhaps, his words also played their role in cutting back the UN mission in the region.
In his sermons in the Georgian churches, Ilia never fails to mention the necessity of uniting Georgia. He does not feel necessary to be politically correct, ignoring the feelings of his Abkhazian and South-Ossetian parish. He says he wants reconciliation of people but his inflexible political position, which a clergyman should not have at all, is only sowing discord. The Patriarch is followed by his supporters, who try to get into politics in order to preach the unity of Georgia in Abkhazia. This unnecessary zeal in the secular matters has already resulted in ordering several monks out of the Kodorsk gorge, for they had refused to recognize the current authorities in Sukhum.
If the Georgian Patriarchy took a neutral position in respect of the political situation in the country, there would be no reason to press its religious power at all, and the coming together of the Abkhazian and the Georgian people would go on more smoothly.
The fact is that Ilia II manages to maintain hearty relationship with the Patriarch of Moscow despite the absence of diplomatic connections between Georgia and Russia. Last December, he even met with President of Russia Dmitri Medvedev when he arrived in Moscow to attend the lying-in-state of Alexis II Patriarch of All Russia. The primate of the Georgian Orthodox Church stated then that "the political strain between Russian and Georgia is unnatural for us". Well, it seems like the Patriarch is also able to relegate the politics to the background when he needs it.