Confessional Issues of NATO’s Eastern Enlargement: Search for a Common Saint


Bulgaria and Romania, the west and northwest parts of the Black Sea shores, are NATO members. Both joined the organization in 2004. It is now time for Ukraine and Georgia, the rest of the Black Sea, to join the alliance.

NATO member states are characterized by identical values, such as democracy, regional and global security, environ protection, etc. Similar values are present in NATO-aspirant states (Ukraine and Georgia) too.

The NATO alliance is a military alliance interested in establishing Eurasian security. A closer look at the map of NATO’s eastward expansion, however, shows that the alliance essentially grows mostly where the confessionally Orthodox Christian states are located. Turkey being a notable exception, NATO member states are predominantly Christian, where Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox versions of the same religion do exist.

Still, there is a common confessional fundament between the western and eastern parts of Europe exemplified in the third or fourth pope of Rome. Pope Clement was banished to Crimea (modern Ukraine) where he was martyred, while his disciples spread Christianity in Western Georgia.

Below is the story of Clement, the pope whose life could serve as a common ground and driving force for cooperation between western and eastern parts of Europe within the NATO alliance.

“He assembled the whole province by preaching; everyone coming to Clement was converted to his doctrine about the Lord; more than 500 persons were baptized by him daily and then dismissed. 75 churches were built there in one year by the true faith, and all the idols destroyed, all the temples in neighboring regions demolished, 300 miles around everything was destroyed and leveled due to his permanent work” (Martyrium S. Clementis. XXII. Patrologiae Graecae Tomus II. Paris. 1886, p. 630).

This aggressive and obviously exaggerated proselytism is an“apocryphal” deed of either the third or the fourth bishop of Rome (the Pope), Clement (92-101). Indeed, this is an amalgam from apocryphal Greek acts of martyrdom dated by the 4th c. Clement was banished from Rome to Chersonesus (Crimea) by Emperor Trajan (98-117) and set to work in a stone quarry.

Clement could really inspire the creation of Christian organizations in those regions. But nobody could have ever believed the story about the destruction of the idols and the temples in the 1st c. A.D. And under whose protection and by whose money could be those churchesbuilt?! So, the whole story is to be believed only partly. Then, what about those 300 miles? (A Roman mile is equal to approximately 1480 m.) If it is true, then Pitius, a city in Colchis/Lazica (western Georgia), and its outskirts fall within this range. Still, there is a major problem to be solved regarding Clement: was he in Crimea, or is this again fiction? The narrative of his martyrdom in Crimea is no older than the 4th c. (Trajan orders Clement to be thrown into the sea with an iron anchor attached). Even Eusebius writes nothing similar (Ph. Schaff. History of the Christian Church. Vol. II: Anti-Nicene Christianity. A.D. 100-325. First Published 1882. Third Edition, Revised., pp. 399-405; Clement of Rome. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Edited by F. L. Cross. Third Edition Edited by E. A. Livingstone. Oxford University Press. 1997, p. 360; Eusebius. HE. III. IV. 6-11, III. XI. XV, III. XX. XXI, III. XXXVII. XXXVIII, Eusebius. The Ecclesiastic History. With an English Translation by K. Lake. In Two Volumes. I. London: W. Heinemann, New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons. MCMXXVI, pp. 197, 233, 235, 241, 289). But the lack of tradition that he was buried in Rome is in favor of him having died in exile (Ch. G. Herbermann. Pope St. Clement I. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Volume 4: Clandestinity-Diocesan Chancery. New York. 1913, p. 36).

Mikhail Sabinin (М. Сабинин. Полные жизнеописания святых грузинской церкви. В 2-х частях. СПб. 1871. Ч. 1, pp. 33-34.­fo/libr_mi­n/18_s/a­b/in­in_01.htm) and Mikhail Tamarashvili (M. Tamarashvili. The Georgian Church from the Beginning to the Present Time (in Georg.).Materials and Researches. 3. Tbilisi. 1995, pp. 189-190) thought of Clement’s converts working hard in Colchis/Lazica for the faith, both of them having in mindthe proximity of Northern and Eastern Black Sea coasts, and not these 300 miles mentioned in the narrative.We believe this note about the exact distance should not be ignored.

Thus, apocryphal acts of the martyrdom show Clement’s large-scale missionary labor and his life proves the possibility of cooperation between the Western and Eastern parts of Europe.

By Prof. Dr. Tedo Dundua, Dr. Emil Avdaliani Institute of Georgian History, TSU

28 May 2020 20:58