Georgians Start Petition Asking for Recognition of Ukrainian Church

A group of Georgians, referring to themselves as members of the Georgian Church, have started a petition calling on the Patriarchate of Georgia to recognize the independence of the Ukrainian Church from Moscow and to congratulate the friend-state on its important achievement.

“We remember the hard way the Georgian Church traveled when it was struggling to gain autocephaly…We also remember the joy we experienced when our autocephaly was restored and we were given the Tomos from Constantinople. We believe that our moral obligation is to support the Ukrainian Church,” the petition on reads.

The authors of the petition hope that the position of the parish will be taken into consideration at the next sitting of the Holy Synod, which will discuss the issue of the Ukrainian Church.

“The children of the Georgian Orthodox Church hope that our Church will not undermine the history of their own autocephaly and will confirm its unity with the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” the petition reads.

While the Georgian Patriarchate remains silent about the issue, the Shemokmedi Archbishop Ioseb took to Facebook to congratulate the Ukrainian Church.

“I congratulate the Ukrainian Orthodox Church on receiving the Tomos and I believe that Ukraine deserves an autocephalous Church. Ukraine has struggled for independence and autocephaly for centuries. Their aspiration will strengthen Christian Orthodox unity,” his post reads.

In addition, Archbishop Ilia Chighladze posted on Facebook that those who do not congratulate Ukraine, are “either into Russian imperialism or are frightened conformists.”

"The autocephaly of Ukraine is the beginning of the defeat of the Russian ecclesiastical and ideological imperialism. This is an elementary issue,” Archbishop Ilia stated.

Zviad Dzidziguri, representative of the Georgian Dream (GD) majority, said there is a risk that if Georgia recognizes the autocephaly of the Church of Ukraine, Russia might recognize the independence of the breakaway Abkhazian and South Ossetian Churches.

"We are very happy with the success of Ukraine in all directions and we welcome it. But we, Georgian politicians, should not forget the sovereignty and independence of our own country,” he added. “Every country acts according to its interests, even Ukraine.”

“Ukraine, when it was in its pragmatic interest, appointed Mikheil Saakashvili, who was declared wanted by our country, to a high political position. We join the congratulations but our country's interests are of utmost importance to us,” he said.

Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani said Georgia is happy and welcomes any steps that promote Ukraine's independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty.

He said the spread information that the government has not expressed its position regarding the issue of the Ukrainian Church and remains silent is not true.

“Why would we not be happy with this fact? Ukraine is our strategic partner and we cooperate in many formats,” he said, adding, however, that the position of Georgia should be voiced by the Patriarchate.

“The Orthodox Church of Georgia should make a decision on this issue. You know that the government does not interfere with Church activities,” he said.

The opposition parties think the government should not wait for the decision of the Church and should congratulate Ukraine.

Parliamentary Minority European Georgia member Giga Bokeria says the silence of Georgia is damaging the country’s image in the international arena.

“This is a most important geopolitical event, not just a victory for the Ukrainian people. Politicians should express their position on this issue. The leaders of European Georgia very clearly congratulated the Ukrainian people on this victory, but we did not hear any congratulations from the governmental officials or GD members,” he claimed.

Ukraine’s Church gained independence from Russia when World Patriarch Bartholomew signed the Tomos on autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church on January 5.

The Ukrainian Church had been under Moscow’s jurisdiction since 1686, when, under pressure from Russia, it abandoned allegiance to Constantinople, the historical seat of the Eastern Orthodox Church, now known as Istanbul.

The Tomos declares that the Metropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine, representing the Holy Synod of Ukrainian bishops, should turn to the Patriarchate of Constantinople for all decisions in the future.

By Thea Morrison

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17 January 2019 18:28