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Georgian and Russian Churches mediate conflict

By Salome Modebadze
Monday, November 17
A Georgian Church delegation gave a press conference concerning the Georgian and Russian Churches’ role in postwar conflict settlement at the offices of the International Fund of Patriarch Ilia II of All Georgia on November 14.

The press conference outlined the results of the Georgian Orthodox Church representatives’ visit to Moscow on November 4, where the two sides had discussed the problems of the Georgian eparchies in the breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia and reestablishment of Georgian Orthodox Church control over these eparchies. Zurab Abashidze, Georgia’s former Ambassador to Russia, who accompanied the Georgian Orthodox Church delegation, spoke of the role of the Churches in overcoming the conflict and emphasized that relations between the two Orthodox Churches were maintained even during the military actions in August.

“This visit has been an important step towards conflict resolution in breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The Churches play the role of moderators in the conflict between Georgia and Russia. Our meeting with Patriarch Aleksey II of the Russian Orthodox Church aroused great interest among Russian journalists; lots of thing about it were written in newspapers and broadcast on TV. We also met Metropolitan Kyril of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, who chairs the Foreign Relations Department of the Moscow Patriarchate and has great influence in Russian official circles,” Abashidze stated.

The Georgian Church delegation noted that the visit also had a political dimension. On the initiative of the Russian Foreign Ministry the Georgian Delegates met Russian Deputy Minister Grigory Karasin to discuss the situation after the August war and clarify Russia’s position in determining the solution to the problem. Both sides acknowledge the complexity of the issue, resolution of which needs a lot of time and patience.

“Georgians living in Moscow want to know what will happen to them. The problems they met two or three years ago, such as persecution and forced emigration, are not common these days, but they worry about their future. They ask for either guarantees of their safety from the Russian side, or a return to their homeland,” Abashidze added.

On December 25 a Russian Church delegation will arrive in Georgia. The Russian Patriarchate had supported preserving the territorial unity of the Georgian Church since the sitting of its Holy Synod in 2000. The two Orthodox Churches have agreed to continue their dialogue about conflict regulation in the breakaway territories and their eparchies, but everything will depend on political relations between the two countries.

The International Fund of Patriarch Ilia II undertakes serious work with foreign countries; in February a Georgian Church delegation will attend a conference in Jerusalem on religious issues.