Orthodoxy – the Kremlin's weapon?
Last week a very important event happened. The Holy Synod transferred management of the Tskhum-Abkhazian diocese to Catholicos Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II and changed his title. From that day His Holiness and Beatitude Ilia II, Catholicos Patriarch of All Georgia was assigned duties of Metropolitan of Tskhum-Abkhazia and Pitsunda.
It should be noted that we do not just have change in the title here. The title of the Catholicos Patriarch specifies boundaries of canonic jurisdiction of the Georgian Orthodox Church. At the same time the Holy Synod put a stop to maneuvers of ill-wishers to extend Russian canonic jurisdiction on the occupied Georgian territories and directly stated that this question was not a subject for discussion.
And they in Russia understood the decision of the Holy Synod exactly as it was meant. Not two days passed since the decision of the Holy Synod that some analysts started to search for new ways for spiritual occupation of the territories of Georgia that are already physically occupied.
From this point of view very interesting is an article that was published in seemingly Orthodox website "Orthodoxy and World" that touched the above-mentioned issue. Its author certain Mikhail Tyurenkov is trying to mislead readers with propagandist techniques that is characteristic of the Kremlin and is offering falsified history. And aim of all this maneuvers is to substantiate expansion of influence of the Russian Orthodox Church on the occupied territories of Georgia.
Arguments of the author are the following. Canonically the territory of Abkhazia is under jurisdiction of the Georgian Orthodox Church but after the war Abkhazians do not let any Georgian cleric on the territory of Abkhazia. Therefore, Orthodox Christians that live in Abkhazia are left without a priest and this cannot be allowed. And in the author's view that is where the Russian Church should step in and take care of lost Abkhazians.
In short, they will not let Georgians there, making Abkhazians do dirty job for them, and will themselves become established there. And not long time passed since we saw how armed Abkhazians that the author calls the Orthodox threw out Georgian clergy from there.
This is a simple logic of action of the empire today with the help of its troops and clergy. But this is not new. Expansion of the borders of the Russian empire was consolidated by establishment and increase of influence of the Russian Church. This has been happening always and everywhere. It is not accidental that after conquering and elimination of the North Caucasian peoples Cossacks were settled there. These Cossacks should have conducted Russian imperialistic policies and those of the Russian Church. The same is happening today. The Russian politics calls on Cossacks to settle in North Caucasian republics to get stronger and multiply. And the Kremlin does not spare money for this. At the same time it frees the North Caucasus from local population by creating conditions for the latters to settle in various regions of the vast Russia.
It is surprising why should the Russian Church operate on the canonic territory of the Georgian Church? A Christian Orthodox that wants to go to a church and pray will do this according to its location. Thousands of Georgian Orthodox Christians have been going, and they still do, to Russian to Greek Orthodox churches across the world. As Orthodox Christianity, and faith in general, has no ethnicity. So why it did it become necessary to create their own church for Abkhazians? Maybe it is because the Russian Church itself to wants to lay hands on their property and Abkhazian blogger Akhra Smyr wrote about this recently. Then we are not dealing with spread of Orthodoxy but with mafia interests.
And how can anyone call Abkhazians Orthodox Christians – those Abkhazians who expelled Orthodox Christian Georgians from their own homes as a result of the ethnic cleansing? Or those who shot Father Andria in the Kamani Church; or those who abuses the Georgian Orthodox Church and having covered with cassocks of the priest dreams of autocephalous status on the ethnic grounds within the Georgian canonic boundaries; If they are Orthodox Christians , no matter are they Abkhazians or Russians let them pray in Georgian churches in accordance with the norms established by the Holy Synod of the Georgian Orthodox Church (according to the new decree of the Synod service in all Georgian Orthodox churches should be held accompanied by Georgian polyphonic singing). Who does not want this divides Orthodox Christianity according on ethnic and territorial basis we would like to tell that if they want to be like a sect it is their choice and it contradicts Orthodox canons, and it does not have any power and their any attempt to be called Orthodox Christians are vain.
Tyurenkov notes that probably the Russian Orthodox Church will not take such step on its own - a step that would violate canons existed in the Orthodox world. So we hope that it will not plunge into this adventure as this would put in doubt its politics with respect to those churches of Ukraine and Eastern Europe that are still part of the Russian Patriarchate. Given this, Tyurenkov offers "way out" - to raise this issue at the World Orthodox Assembly.
In June Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew visited Moscow. During a meeting with the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill it was decided to hold the eighth world council under the auspices of the Grand Assembly of the Orthodox Church. One of the issues to be discussed at this meeting - "on development of mechanisms for awarding the status of autonomous and autocephalous status to the new realities that emerged in the Orthodox world" is extremely important. However, what new realities were discussed between Bartholomew and Cyril has not been specified. It is interesting to know whether it is about those "new realities" which for the last two years have been imposed by the office of Sergey Lavrov. Anyway, there is no doubt that this issue is directly related to Russian politics in the occupied territory of Georgia.
Given this, we would like to tell our northern neighbour - let alone Orthodoxy, stop using the name of God and faith as a weapon of your dirty politics ...
Change of the title of head of the Church in the history of Georgia has always been associated with political and religious situation. As noted by historian Sergo Vardosanidze, Georgian Church acquired autocephalous status during King Vakhtang Gorgasali. And title of Catholicos of Kartli existed at the time. It did not fully reflect political and religious reality, which was formed in Georgia in the following centuries. That is why in X-XI centuries, when process of political unification was finished in Georgia and the Georgian Church regained some dioceses of western Georgia that were given away by the Patriarchate of Kartli, a new title emerged - Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia instead of the title "Catholicos of Kartli". Catholicos Melkisedek I who built Svetitskhoveli Cathedral was the first bearer of this title.
In the seventies and eighties of the XV century, when Georgia was divided into three kingdoms and one principality, in western Georgia at the instigation of outside forces - the patriarch of Jerusalem - Bishop of Tsaishi and Bedia was declared Catholicos Patriarch of Likht-Imereti and Abkhazians.
As head of the Department of History of Georgia of the Theological Academy Doctor of Historical Sciences, Professor Sergo Vardosanidze told Rezonansi newspaper, "Abkhazian separatists often say that in the XV century they had their own catholicos-patriarch, and therefore their church should be independent. But they are silent about the fact that all patriarchs of Licht-Imereti and Abkhazians, residence of which initially was located in Pitsunda and later in the XVI century in Gelati, were Nemsadze, Abashidze, Lortkipanidze etc. i.e. they were Georgians. Incidentally, there is another point: six patriarchs out of all Catholicos Patriarchs of All Georgia of the XX century were from Tskhum-Abkhazian diocese".
He explains: "There were two Georgian Patriarchates from the XV century to the beginning of the XVIII century. A centre of one of them was in Pitsunda, and the second, supremacy of which was recognized by western Georgians well, was in Svetitskhoveli, in Mtskheta. It was from Svetitskhoveli that chrism was taken to western Georgia.
... In 1811, when the autocephalous status was abolished, Russians did everything as they pleased and reduced the number of dioceses. After the restoration of autocephaly, on March 12th, 1917, Kirion was elected as Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia. To emphasize that power of the Catholicos-Patriarch covered the entire territory of Georgia, cathedras were in Pitsunda, Gelati, Mtskheta and Tbilisi - in Anchiskhati. Such is the historical reality "- writes Vardosanidze.
28 December 2010 Experts' Club