Church Matters


When talking about Russian influences, the Metropolitan of Poti and Khobi Bishop Grigol made a scandalous announcement, saying that after appointing Metropolitan Shio as the locum tenens of the Georgian Church, Patriarch Ilia II is being pushed to retire. The Patriach has denied this categorically.

“Your Holiness, you are tired and should rest. We will take care of everything” is what he has allegedly been told numerous times, according to Bishop Grigol, who did not reveal who exactly has been heard saying this to the Patriarch. Apparently not only Church officials, but also civilians.

As soon as Grigol’s televised interview finished, a few names surfaced, among them those of the billionaire businessmen Levan Vasadze and Vano Chkhartishvili.

Seeing Levan Vasadze among those who support the resignation of Patriarch was no surprise, as he’s been lobbying the career advancement of his childhood friend Metropolitan Shio for some time. However, Vano Chkhartishvili being in the “coalition advising a step-down” came as a surprise; unlike Vasadze, he is not known for meddling in Church issues, always seen as the moderate player.

Thus, came the suspicion that apart from the close circle of Shio, Ivanishvili’s government may also be interested in the resignation of Ilia II. But wht? Before we try to answer the question, we should recall the appointment of Metropolitan Shio: last year after the infamous “cyanide scandal,” when the alleged assassination plot against the Patriarch was exposed, Bishop Shio was appointed as the locum tenens. The Church hierarchy was quick to divide as some officials began visiting Washington, while others, together with Shio, stayed loyal to Moscow. Russia and its Church, as well as the cyanide case that triggered the division, is the real apple of discord within the Georgian Church. Therefore, it really does matter for Moscow who the successor of Ilia II will be – Shio and his supporters, who visit Moscow, or Metropolitan Grigol or Iakob, who prefer Washington. We should also mention the frequented secret visits of Metropolitan Ilarion, the special representative of Patriarch Kirill of Russia, to Georgia. These visits did bring some “results” on the World Ecclesiastical Congregation in Crete, where Georgia was in coalition with the Bulgarian and Serbian Churches.

But right now, the Church of Georgia has a much bigger problem to solve: stay in the coalition or support the separation of the Ukrainian Church from that of Russia? This issue has to be decided by Ilia II. In light of this, it becomes clearer why Vasadze or Chkhartishvili could support the resignation of the Patriach, since the decision that Metropolitan Shio could make is much more predictable than that of Ilia II.

The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople decided to grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church, in a decision announced in Kyiv by the special delegation that travelled to Ukraine. Of the 14 Orthodox Churches, the celebration was attended by 10 delegations, among them Metropolitan of Zugdidi and Tsaishi Gerasime. The fact that the Georgian delegation was in Kyiv shows that it will support the decision made by the Ecumenical Patriarch; notably, before these events, the delegation from Constantinople travelled to all autocephalous churches, without asking anyone for support, but to give the information that it was planning to grant the autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church.

Special tomos on autocephaly to the local Orthodox Church has yet to be issued by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople- that is the document that all 15 Orthodox Church Patriarch’s will have to sign. Georgia is 6th on this list. Whether the signature of Ilia II will be seen there is unknown, but if we look at the political orienteers of the people, who are trying to lead the church issues instead of the Patriach, we can be sure that that we will in any case see the Georgian signature on the tomos of autocephaly to Ukraine’s Orthodox Church.

By Zaza Jgarkava

09 August 2018 19:17