Shrove Sunday for two Orthodox Churches02.03.2011 | 11:26
A delegation of the Georgian Orthodox Church is visiting Moscow on the last week before Lent. Words of Catholicos Patriarch Ilia II that peace should be finally restored between two countries were pronounced before the voyage. Priest Vladimir Vigilyansky, spokesman for Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kirill and Malkhaz Gulashvili, People's Orthodox Movement leader of Georgia, discussed if friendship between the Russian and Georgian Churches can reconcile our nations in an interview with GeorgiaTimes correspondent.
"I call on leaders of both states to display wisdom and courage to start a dialogue on different levels and discuss complex issues that have accumulated and need to be solved", - Catholicos Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II said. - Before seeing the rising sun, one will see one's neighbor. Continued strife between neighbors is inadmissible!"
Russian and Georgian Churches are respected and trusted by people in both countries. They apply best efforts to preserve friendly relations between two nations without influencing politics directly. Unofficially, setting the example of the way authorities must act, the Churches do the best they can.
It's not incidental that GOC's delegation arrived in Moscow to meet Patriarch Kirill and brethren from the Russian Church on the first day of the Pancake Week also known as a "cheese" or "meat-free" week. It's not only a merry festival - it's also preparation for long repentance of Lent. The name of this week in Church calendar is harsh: the week on Final Judgment. What is it like to face it in hostility, bearing a grudge?
It's no coincidence either that the delegation plans to return to Georgia at the end of the week crowned with Shrove Sunday. Isn't it mutual forgiveness and reconciliation that Churches push for?
The delegation comprises metropolitan of Zugdidi and Tsaishi Gerasim (Sharashenidze), archimandrite David (Dzhincharauli), archpriest Georgi (Kharazishvili), ex ambassador of Georgia to Russia Zurab Abashidze. They are expected as good old friends in Moscow with whom even most complicated issues are solved without fear or diffidence.
- I know these people well and I love them, - Vladimir Vigilansky, spokesman for Patriarch Kirill told GeorgiaTimes correspondent. - Though I haven't seen the day of the meeting in our Patriarch's schedule but this meeting will definitely take place when the delegation arrives. Every time a Georgian delegation of any level comes, they meet with the Patriarch. It does not matter what problems will be put on the agenda. There are no problems that would not be solved around a negotiation table. Our ties as local Orthodox churches have always continued; we have never had serious conflicts. No matter the developments, heads of our Churches always declared love for each other showing mutual understanding in resolution of many problems, and contacts between our Churches have never been interrupted. I went to Georgia last year to meet Patriarch Catholicos Ilia II. We have our representative in Tbilisi, archimandrite Roman. There is nothing that could damage relations between our local Churches.
- Is there hope that this position of our Churches will help politicians get closer?
- Generally speaking, the state is separated from the Church that considers it unacceptable to put pressure on authorities or be pressurized. But I believe the state cherishes this friendship between our Churches. I also think that Georgian leaders recognize our communication and don't create obstacles. I saw it last year in Georgia.
Certainly it has been our ancient concern that politicians fail to find a common language. Though politics did influence intensity of relations, the quality of our spiritual and cultural ties has never decayed. We have had no problems, no obstacles that were hard to overcome between our Churches.
- Can we be sure that Patriarch Kirill will find time in his loaded schedule to meet with the delegation?
- I know that when a church hierarch comes, the Patriarch always finds a possibility to organize a meeting.
Malkhaz Gulashvili, People's Orthodox movement leader, too, is happy to learn about the visit of the Georgian church delegation to Moscow:
- I fully approve of the visit of the Georgian church delegation to Moscow. We must remark that from the first day of the conflict, Orthodox Churches had a dignified position pursuing a totally correct policy. Particularly late Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexey II who had a truthful and correct stand. Even now the Churches continue contacts, and the Georgian Church does a lot to bring them up to date. This visit of the Georgian church delegation is another confirmation of the fact.
Such contacts must be favored. I hope Russia and Georgia will revive contacts sooner or later and become strategic partners. Our churches are first to understand importance of cooperation between our countries. Politicians should not forget about profound ties between Russian and Georgian nations.
- Do you think similar visits might facilitate reconciliation and rapprochement between our countries?