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Georgian Archbishop Says 2016 Cathedral Fire Was Arson

By Tea Mariamidze
Monday, December 4
(TBILISI) --18 months after a fire engulfed Georgia’s Holy Trinity Cathedral an ongoing investigation has yet to answer most key questions about the case.

Archbishop Jacob, one of Georgian Patriarch Ilia II’s three designated chorepiscopi — clerics who are authorized to sign orders on behalf of the Patriarch - believes the fire was deliberately set by individuals with connections to the Patriarchate.

Jacob, who also serves as the Archbishop of Bodbe Diocese in Georgia’s eastern Kakheti region, told Rustavi-2 TV station that these people are Soso Okhanashvili, that the former head of Ilia’s security detain; Archpriest Giorgi Mamaladze, who is currently in prison for attempted murder; Tariel Shavshishvili, a former employee of the patriarchate’s security service, were responsible for setting the fire.

Jacob claims the trio hoped to profit from the reconstruction project of the cathedral - the third tallest Orthodox Cathedralin the world.

Repair works on the cathedral are estimated at 3.7 million GEL ($1.367 million)

“These people wanted to misappropriate around 2 million GEL ($739,000). They were claiming that the whole roof of the temple was destroyed, which wasn’t true,” Jacob told Rustavi-2, adding that the Prosecutor’s Office refused to investigate the case properly so as to not damage influential players in the patriarchate.

“If the investigation was carried out properly, they would understand that the fire was set deliberately,” said Archbishop Jacob.

Shavshishvili accused Jacob of spreading false rumors, while steadfastly denying the charges. He claimed that Jacob, himself, was the one looking to profit from a major repair project on the cathedral.

Shavshishvili contend that the money requested from the government was needed for installation of surveillance cameras, fire sensors and night-vision cameras. He claims that Jacob was against the installation of the cameras, and instead wanted the money to be put under his control.