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Church diplomacy may bring results

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, July 28
When ordinary relations between two states have broken down and become weak, the churches of the countries should strengthen their ties, so said Russian Patriarch Kirill after meeting with Georgian Orthodox Church leader Ilia II in Kiev, on July 26. A launching of a renewed dialogue between the churches was also voiced after the meeting.

"There are difficulties in the relationship between Russia and Georgia. But there are no principled differences between the two brotherly Orthodox Churches. We hope that the Orthodox Churches, as kind of spiritual locomotives, will help to overcome difficulties existing in the inter-state relations," the Russian Patriarch said. He also mentioned that "problems" had been discussed, including related to church life in breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

"We have discussed difficult issues in an atmosphere of brotherly love and peace," Patriarch Kirill stated.

"It is absolutely obvious that canonical jurisdiction of the Georgian Patriarchate covers the territory of Abkhazia and South Ossetia," he told reporters.

Patriarch Kirill also added that "on the other hand a kind of canonical disorder persists" in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which, he said, harms the spiritual life of the people in those regions and needs to be addressed.

"So, after discussing these issues in an open and brotherly atmosphere we have agreed to continue our dialogue with the purpose of achieving a solution in the future... and to restore canonical order and to prevent any kind of schismatic actions," Patriarch Kirill said.

Following the meeting with the Russian Church leader, Georgian Patriarch Ilia II concurred that negotiations had been "brotherly."

"The issues which we are facing - these are the issues of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region - require a very serious approach," Patriarch Ilia II stated. "I am grateful to his Holiness, Patriarch Kirill for reiterating once again the jurisdiction of the Georgian Orthodox Church over Abkhazia and Tskhinvali."

"I think we will be meeting again. It is a good start and I think its continuation will be very good too and we will find a way to overcome problems through mutual understanding," Ilia II said.

The meeting and the proclamations made may embarrass the Russian Patriarch, Russian media sources stated. Based on them, the Russian Church currently faces problems with the Romanian Church and its Patriarch which has established Romanian churches on land considered to be under the jurisdiction of the Russian Church in Moldova and Ukraine. Given this, the Russian Church needs an ally which may come in the shape of the Georgian Orthodox Church.

The situation is also being watched closely by Georgian analysts, one of whom, Nika Chitadze, told The Messenger that a deepening of relations between the two churches would be a positive step in starting dialogue between the Georgian and Russian governments, as, " despite the fact that Russian and Georgian churches do not directly interfere in the countries' political issues, they can bring to bear a serious influence on it, a positive influence."