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Georgian Orthodox Church

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Georgian Apostolic Autocephalous Orthodox Church
(Patriarchate of Georgia)
Coat of Arms of Georgian Orthodox Church.svg
Coat of arms of the Georgian Orthodox Church
PrimateIlia II of Georgia
LanguageGeorgian
HeadquartersTbilisi, Georgia
TerritoryGeorgia
PossessionsWestern Europe, United States, Russia, Turkey,[1] Azerbaijan, Australia, Armenia
FounderSaint Andrew, Saint Nino, Mirian III 
Independencefrom Antioch c. 486,[2]
from Russia in 1917, 1943
RecognitionAutocephaly gradually conferred by the Church of Antioch and recognized by most of the Church c. 486 – 1010. Autocephaly quashed by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1811 on orders of the Tsar, partially restored in 1917, fully restored in 1943. Recognized by the Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1990.
SeparationsAbkhazian Orthodox Church (2009)
Members3.5 million (2011)[3]
Official websitewww.patriarchate.ge

The Georgian Apostolic Autocephalous Orthodox Church (Georgian: საქართველოს სამოციქულო ავტოკეფალური მართლმადიდებელი ეკლესია, translit.: sakartvelos samotsikulo avt'ok'epaluri martlmadidebeli ek'lesia) is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Church in full communion with the other churches of Eastern Orthodoxy. It is Georgia's dominant religious institution, and a majority of Georgian people are members. The Georgian Orthodox Church is one of the oldest churches in the world. It asserts apostolic foundation, and its historical roots must be traced to the early and late Christianization of Iberia and Colchis by Saint Andrew in the 1st century AD and by Saint Nino in the 4th century AD, respectively.

As in similar autocephalous Orthodox churches, the Church's highest governing body is the Holy Synod of bishops. The church is headed by the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, currently Ilia II, who was elected in 1977.

Orthodox Christianity was the state religion throughout most of Georgia's history until 1921, when it was conquered by the Russian Red Army during the Russian-Georgian War and became part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.).[4] The current Constitution of Georgia recognizes the special role of the Georgian Orthodox Church in the country's history, but also stipulates the independence of the church from the state. Government relations are further defined and regulated by the Concordat of 2002.

The church is the most trusted institution in Georgia. According to a 2013 survey 95% respondents had a favorable opinion of its work.[5] It is highly influential in the public sphere and is considered Georgia's most influential institution.[6][7]

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  • ✪ The Orthodox Church in Georgia Since Independence
  • ✪ Destruction of the Georgian Orthodox Church by Russian Empire in 1811

Transcription

>> From the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. >> Joan Weeks: Well good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. On behalf of all my colleagues and in particular, Dr. Mary-Jane Deeb, chief of the African and Middle East Division, I'd like to extend a very warm welcome to everyone. I'm Joan Weeks, head of the Near East Section, and sponsor of today's program on the Orthodox Church in Georgia since Independence by Dr. Paul Crego. Before we start today's program and introduce our speaker, I'd like to give you a brief overview of the division and the resources in the hopes that you'll come back and use the collections and this reading room for your research. This is a custodial division which is comprised of three sections that build and serve the collections to researchers from around the world. We cover 75 countries and over 22 languages. The African section includes all the countries of sub-Sahara, Africa. The Hebraic section covers Judaica and Hebraic worldwide. And the Near East section covers all of the Arab counties of North Africa, the Near East, all of the sections of Turkey, Turkey Central Asia, Iran, Afghanistan, the Muslims in Western China, Russia, the Balkans and the people of the Caucuses. So you know, this is quite an extensive region. And we're particularly pleased today to be covering Georgia in the former Soviet Republic. So before we get started, there are just a couple of things I want to tell you about. We also do programs and more extensive programs than even this. On June 10th, we have a very exciting program with panels planned from 8:30 to 3:30 over in LJ119 on the Assyrians, and the ancient peoples all through the Middle East going into Turkey, all of the different regions the Assyrians lived and it's going to be a very exciting program. And as a further incentive, it includes breakfast and lunch, so. So, please mark that on your calendar, if you can join us at some point with that. Also another little housekeeping thing, we'd like to invite you to fill in the questionnaires that you see in your seats. This helps us to plan for future programs to improve and see what you like and what worked well for you. Then also, we invite you to ask questions but if you do ask them, since we're videotaping this, you're giving consent to be taped just by default, so just please be aware of that. So, without further ado, I'd like to invite Dr. Levon Avdoyan on here to introduce our speaker. >> Levon Avdoyan: Thank you, Joan. It's wonderful to see so many people here for this special event and it is also a double pleasure to introduce today's speaker to you, Dr. Paul Crego, who is the Senior Cataloging Specialist and Acquisitions Librarian in the Israel and Judaica section with the Library of Congresses, Asian and then Middle East Division. He has been my vital partner in the acquisitions of Georgian and Armenian materials for 17 years now and has brought all of these formats of these collections under bibliographic control for your use. Paul started at the Library of Congress in 1999 and he's responsible for books in Georgian, Armenian and the languages of Ethiopia. He holds a BA in Soviet and East European studies from Syracuse University, an MA from Harvard University Soviet Union program, a Masters of Divinity from the Harvard Divinity School and a PhD in Theology from Boston College. His publications include an article with Professor Stephen Rapp, the Conversion of K'art'li: The Shatberdi Variant from the Kekalazi [phonetic] Institute a in Tbilisi, the Ordination of St. Nino, the Georgian Orthodox Church in Christianity and Politics in the 21st Century, Monks and Monasticism in Georgia in the 19th and 20th Centuries, and he co-edited with Stephen Rapp the Georgia Volume in the Ash Gate Series, Languages and Cultures of Eastern Christianity. Now, Paul was a staff fellow on the John W. Kluge Scholarly Center in 2007 to 2008 and spent his years studying the historical and cultural context of the Aposean [assumed spelling] Conflict. During his fellowship year, he delivered a number of lectures on issues of language, policy, ethnic identity and ethnic and national identity in religious context. He delivered papers at the Manuscript Center in Tbilisi, Princeton University and the University of Michigan at Ann Harbor. In 2015, Dr. Crego presented papers on the LGBT community in the Republic of Georgia including religious issues in connections with that community. One at the Georgia and at the Crosswords Conference at Bailey University and the other at the Annual Meeting of the Association for Slavic East European and Eurasian Studies in Philadelphia. Now, as you can see, he is uniquely qualified to speak to us on the subject of the Orthodox Church in Georgia since Independence. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Paul Crego. [ Applause ] >> Paul Crego: Picture it, Ikalto, a small village in Kakheti that is the eastern part of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic. Saturday afternoon, July 7th, 1990, the church-- oops. There we go. The church of the transfiguration [foreign language] also known as [foreign language], that is Divinity of Godliness, among the surviving buildings of a famous medieval theological school. Some of the great philosophical and literary figures had studied here during the hay day of Georgia's Bagratid Dynasty and its United Kingdom. Not the least of it-- not the least of these was the poet, Shota Rustavelli, author of the epic poem, Vepkhist'q'aosani The Knight in the Panther Skin. The inside of the church was in poor repair, water stains were visible. The frescoes had been whitewashed likely during the imperial Russian period when some Georgian churches had their Georgian identities erased. Icons of various styles had been placed in a makeshift iconostasis. Boxes of sand in front of the icons held thin beeswax candles, guttering in the soft, warm, humid breeze. In response to a question asked from among our group of students in Georgia for the first summer school in Kartvelian studies at Tbilisi State University, the intuitus [phonetic] or foreign tourists service guide said that it was not a working church. Shortly after this response, however, the church bells began to chime. And efficient to some priestly order, who appeared as if he had been waiting in the very wall of the church for his cue, placed his service books on a lectern and began to chant what was likely the vigil of the resurrection. We wondered whether we had witnessed the first service in the new life of this church of the transfiguration. Certainly, it was among the first and represented, iconified if you will the transfiguration already well underway in the Georgian Orthodox Church and in the Georgian nation. We were witnessing the beginning of a remarkable new era after nearly seven decades of Soviet rule and its companion policy of official state-sponsored atheism. Although the Soviet Union did not officially cease to exist until the end of 1991, there are two dates before the official end that are essential starting points for the concept of this paper. The first is December 25th, 1977. The Orthodox Church in Georgia uses what's called the Old Calendar so this is not Christmas, but about two weeks before. This was the day when the current Patriarch Catholicos of the Georgian Church, Ilia II was enthroned. Although that sometime-- although it was some difficult times early in his reign, these Catholicos, Ilia II emerged in the 1980s as the leader who would begin to revive the Orthodox Church in Georgia, he saw into a future that held much promise for a renewed church when independence would come again to Georgia. The second date is April 9th, 1989. It was on an early Sunday morning when Soviet troops attempting to disperse a demonstration that had been developing for several weeks fired upon the crowd. Nineteen people were killed, among them 17 women and many more were injured. April 9th, 1989 was the day that Soviet power died in Georgia. Huge funeral liturgies soon became rallies for the resurrection of the nation. Yes, there were political structures that lingered and the Communist Party shambled on. For the Georgian people however, communist rule was body-hawking corpse that was left then only further to decay. Within a year, there was a box in front of the Supreme Soviet Building, now Parliament, and near the memorial for the victims of April 9th. And on this box, there was an invitation for people to place their Communist cards into the dustbin of history. In my brief time today, I want to touch on a number of different topics, the growth of the Orthodox Church in Georgia, church-state relations, the Orthodox Church in society and some publications of the church. Let me pause at this point to thank the African and Middle East Division for inviting me to speak today particularly Dr. Mary-Jane Deeb, Chief, Joan Weeks, head of the Near East Section and Dr. Levon Avdoyan, my reference colleague in matters Armenian and Georgian. And if anyone wants to know, I have been studying the Georgian language since 1977 and a great deal of my research concerning the Orthodox Church in Georgia involves reading Georgian language sources. The enthronement of Ilia II as Catholicos Patriarch of the Orthodox Church in Georgia marked a point after which this autocephalous church began to experience a reversal of its fortune. Although still in the time of Breshnev [assumed spelling] conditions in Georgia, were more favorable than in some of the other parts of the Soviet Union. They continued to improve during the Gorbachev years of Glasnost. And there's Pearl Lenin with his head bashed in near the Natakhtari beer and soda bottling plant, north of Mtskheta. And what was Lenin's Square when I was still there in 1990 is now Freedom Square with a statue topped by a golden St. George slaying his dragon. Sadly, I missed Lenin coming down by only about a week. There had been rumors all summer and we even got on the bus to go to free or well, Lenin Square at the time to see it come down but we heard that the Georgians forgotten ropes and such by which to haul it down, anyway. One of the most important early events for the future of the church was the opening of the Tbilisi Spiritual Academy in October in 1988 across from the Zioni-- or Zion Cathedral. This spiritual academy was a companion to the seminary in Mtskheta that had sometimes been open during the Soviet period. Before his enthronement, Ilia II had been rector of the Mtskheta Theological Seminary from 1963 to 1972 and in 18-- 1989, the ancient autocephaly or self-governing status of the Orthodox Church in Georgia was officially recognized by the patriarch of Constantinople. The pace of change picked up in the 1990s and into the 21st century. At his enthronement in 1977, only five eparchies existed in Georgia. There are now 50 including seven outside of the Republic of Georgia's territory. The first years of the new century saw a great deal of new church construction and renovation. The numbers of working churches has increased from probably no more than a couple of dozen to over 850 by 2007. We'll come back to that one. Political leaders got in on the building, Eduard Shevardnadze who became the head of state in 1992 and was later elected president after the 1995 Constitution and served until the Revolution of the Roses in November of 2003, sponsored the reconstruction of the Saint Nicholas Church in the Narikala Fortress overlooking the old part of Tbilisi. He was by the way baptized Giorgi [assumed spelling] by the patriarch himself. From before 1990, the Orthodox Church in Georgia had begun to make plans for the construction of a new cathedral. It was to be called, "The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity". A competition among architects was held in 1990 but with the economy in ruins in the 1990s, it became impossible to raise funds for the new cathedral. Finally, in the opening years of the 21st century, earnest construction began with a large contribution from Bidzina Ivanishvili, who had made his money in Russia during the 1990s when that country's economy was largely unfettered by regulation. This is the same Ivanishvili, who became Prime Minister of Georgia after the Parliamentary Elections of 2012. Churches were built in Tbilisi and elsewhere, others repaired and put back together literally putting the stones back up in order for the churches again to exist. This included the church of St. David the Builder who had been the ruler of Georgia in its-- in the Middle Ages when Georgia was at its largest extent. This church was built on the grounds of Tbilisi State University. Let's look a little at the Church of the Holy Trinity as it was built. This was in late May or early July 2000-- early June 2004. You can see some of the ornamentation that was waiting to go up. Not all of the technology was 21st century. This is an inside view looking at the altar where the iconostasis now is and up on the top of the apps overlooking the altar, there are now tracings in which a new mosaic of Christ, the Pantocrator or the Almighty will be put. Just a view to show you how much this new church dominates the landscape in Tbilisi. Another new church, they're not all big, is the small church honoring St. Habo of Tbilisi, an the early medieval martyr who had been a perfumer in Baghdad, moved to Tbilisi, converted to Christianity and then was martyred for this trouble. Monastery of the Holy Cross, a 6th century establishment. It's actually a first year to its 4th century. What's left there now is as old as the 6th century. It's a common place for wedding parties to come, so that a couple can be blessed by the priests who were there. Now, some of the women wear very high heels and there's a slab of concrete just down the stairs from the church that overlooks the Aragvi and Mt'k'vari River or Kura if you need a better vowel to [inaudible]. But it's steep and they don't want people wearing stilettos to go over the cliff. Another of the churches is a small basilica called the Antakya Church which is also Mcxeta, part of the complex of the women's monastery at the Samtavro Church in Mcxeta. I'm afraid sometimes I intrude the pictures, that's Professor's Stephen Rapp with whom I've done some writing and editing. Inside the Antakya Church, some new frescos, this is the scene with St. Nino equal to the Apostles and Enlightener of the Georgia's-- Enlightener of the Georgians when she prays for the pagan idols to be blown off the hill. So a significant part of her story. Saint John the Baptist Monastery is out in the Eastern part of Georgia where things get very dry and actually, that cliff on the side is where the monastery is. There's a church inside there and a refractory. And there are also monks' residence that's cut into the cliff and yes, it was that blue that day. My memory is giving to the monastery, it was the feast of Saints Helena and Constantine so at 10 o'clock, there was a festive lunch and the red liquid coming out of the coke bottles was of course some good Georgian wine. And they were at the time building a new retreat center for the faithful who would come on pilgrimage. There's Saint Nino's Spring in Bodbe and there is a large tank of water here. If you want to be fully sanctified, you dunk your whole body in it, I just kind of washed my head but others were more exuberant in their piety than I was. This is down the hill from the main cathedral of Bodbe which means it's a long climb back up. And the Ananuri Church which is as Georgian churches go, a fairly new one, only about the 17th century and this was along the Aragvi River, North of Mcxeta by an hour or so. I couldn't resist this picture of the little fisherman who had a very ambitious project. If he had filled that fishnet, I think he would have had fish to equal his own weight. Another of the churches that has been rebuilt and this one to some controversy, this-- the ruins of this cathedral were on the UNESCO list and former President Mike-- Mikheil Saakashvili as one of his projects and also a project of the church was to have this rebuilt and it has not been rebuilt to the specifications of many people and much controversy has ensued. An excursion into the countryside reveals dozens if not hundreds of small basilica churches that have been cobbled together like that Antakya Church in the past generation. One of the measures on taken-- undertaken by the church in recent years is the repatriation of all church buildings in the Georgian territory of Svaneti. This relatively remote part of the country that stretches into the mountains and all the way to the border with the Russian Federation is covered with small basilica type churches. Many of these churches often in the possession of families within the villages had become sites of non-Christian rituals. The past decade, the patriarchate has successfully recovered most of these for Christian worship. One source has indicated to me that this was met with little opposition and that in fact, the residents of Svaneti were grateful for the reestablishment of normative Christian ritual and belief. This is one of those churches. A lot of these are about 900 or 1,000 years old. This is Nakipari which is on the end of the Inguri River, a church name for St. George. Svaneti is the only place where I've seen churches in honor of the prophet Jonah. You will remember the whiney prophet in the Hebrew Scriptures who-- whose famous line was, "Well, God, I knew you'd change your mind and you'd be nice to these people". So perhaps, that is part of the reason that Job or Jonah gets churches named for him. That's one of my favorite pictures. This is the Lamaria Church in Ushguli which is just about as far as you can get on the Georgian side of the border as you're heading into the Caucasus Mountains. There is a glacier around the corner that feeds the Inguri River that finally goes to the Black Sea. If you haven't been to Svaneti, I recommend it. So, a little bit about church-state relations. As noted above, when the Republic of Georgia emerged from the rubble of the Soviet Union as a free and sovereign nation, the Orthodox Church found itself in a new political context. After nearly seven decades of militant and often crass and bullying, government-sponsored official atheism, the Orthodox Church in Georgia began again to exert its role as a foundational institution in Georgian society. This foundation was supported by Georgia's first post-Soviet president, Zviad Gamsakhurdia who ironically was driven from power nearly at the same time that the Soviet Union finally collapsed. He promoted a close relationship with the Orthodox Church in part as a guarantor of the Georgian nation and its freedom. In the political speeches, he reminded his listeners that Georgia as the lot, the word in Georgian is [foreign language] of the Theotokos. This is a reference to the story that the apostles including the Virgin Mary had divided missionary assignments up by casting lots and Georgia fell to Mary. After a communication from her son however, she came to understand that she would not be able to fulfill this mission and Saint Andrew the First-called took her place. This understanding of the special protection of Georgia by the Theotokos became an important theme for the church and its relationship to the nation. For the Orthodox Church in Georgia, this has met not only a belief in her protection but a severe responsibility to maintain the nation as worthy of that protection in extreme cases. This is an issue for those who seek to rid the nation of its impure others. Gamsakhurdia's support had been a little more than ironic, steep as he was in the belief system of Rudolf Steiner's anthroposophy. Articles in the Orthodox churches press attacking Steinerism appeared only years after Gamsakhurdia's death. But it was clear that they were kicking his corpse. At first, the Republic of Georgia operated under the 1921 Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Georgia that had codified a separation of church and state, already in existence from the early days of that republic, a separation that have actually been more separate than the church had desired. Georgia adopted a new constitution in 1995 several years after Shevardnadze had returned to power. This constitution enshrined the Orthodox Church as the first among equals, freedom of religion is guaranteed, but the constitution also speaks of the historical precedence of orthodoxy in Georgia. No other religion or Christian denomination is mentioned as having this sort of historical relevance. Article 9 of the Constitution as amended reads, "The state proclaims the full freedom of belief and confession at the same time, acknowledging the special role Georgia's apostolic autocephalous Orthodox Church has played in Georgia's history and its-- and also recognizes its independence from the state. The relationship of Georgia's state and Georgia's apostolic autocephalous Orthodox Church is to be defined by a constitutional concordat. The constitutional concordant-- concordat is to be consistent in general with all internationally-recognized principles and norms, specifically in the sphere of fundamental human rights. This constitutionally-mandated concordat between the government and the church was eventually signed on October 14th, 2002 by President Shevardnadze and Patriarch Catholicos Ilia II at the Church of the Living pillar Svetitskhoveli in the old capital city of Mtskheta. This document provided details for the relationship of church and state in Georgia and ratified its primary status above other religious groups, specifically the special status of the church, included tax exemptions, clerical release from military service and a special legal status for the patriarch. A commentary on the concordat, its title translated into English, Commentaries on the Constitutional Concordat between the Government of Georgia and Georgia's Apostolic Autocephalous Orthodox Church, was written by Davit Cikvaize. He promoted the idea that the concordat have made the Orthodox Church in Georgia the official state church. While, I do not believe this is technically so the Orthodox Church is often operated as though it had been made such. This is especially noted in its reported interference in the property rights of other churches and religious communities. The ambiguity concerning the status of other religions and other Christian denominations was somewhat nearly rated with the religious law that came into effect in July 2012. The first two readings of this legislation had included only what was referred to in some documents as the seven historic religious communities, orthodoxy, Catholicism, the Lutherans, Baptists, Jews, Muslims and the Armenian Apostolic Church. Jews have been present in Georgia and other South Caucasian territories since early after the Babylonian captivity. Muslims, since the second generation after Mohammed and Armenian and Georgian Christians have lived intermingled since the early days of Christianity in the South Caucasus. Catholic missionaries were present in Georgia in medieval times. Baptists and Lutherans have been present since the 19th century and as a result of religious movements coming by way of the Russian empire. In between the second and third readings of the 2012 Law, the Committee on European Integration widely expanded the number of religious communities to conform to those recognized by the European Council. The Orthodox Church had not been consulted on this change and reacted adversely to the broad expansion of the new law. After some reconsiderations of its public stance, the Senate of the Orthodox Church in Georgia backed down from its most severe criticism of the new law. At this point, the church seemed to have realized that its overreach was leading to bad publicity, not only in Georgia but around the world. At the same time, the Senate insisted that the parliament should consult with it when laws affecting religion were under consideration. There is generally an ongoing in complex relationship of the Orthodox Church in Georgia with not only its place in the nation, but also its relationship with the government that promotes a European or a Western orientation complete with the promotion of civil and human rights. The Orthodox Church in this time of independence has been anxious about the way in which they understand how freedom can quickly become a free for all sort of attitude toward ethical and moral norms. There is no question that the Orthodox Church is the most respected institution in Georgian society and that Patriarch Catholicos Ilia II is the most respected individual in the Republic of Georgia. This has been so for most of the years since Georgia regained its independence. It is as much so now as the campaign for the October Parliamentary Elections have revealed a widespread disdain for many of the political parties and coalitions currently in the Georgian Parliament. On the other hand, it has been difficult for the Orthodox Church as for churches of many sorts in post-Soviet states to adjust to the new social and political realities of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The effect of seven decades of Soviet rule on Georgia, in the Georgia on the Orthodox Church and other religious communities cannot be overestimated. Once of the historical developments or better, non-developments of the Orthodox churches in Soviet time and space was that it prevented these communities from the sort of modern discussion and debates that characterized Christianity in other parts of the world in that century. In the few churches that survived the Communist regime, liturgy was preserved but talk of modernizing liturgical language or the education of faithful or involvement in social activities was forbidden. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Orthodox Church in Georgia, in response to the dire economic and social needs of the Georgian people, became involved again in the social sphere. Since 1994, the church's Lazarus Foundation has been a mainstay of large-scale relief work in society. One of the more difficult adjustments in this new time has involved ecumenical relations. For a time, the church in Georgia played a role, if only a small one in the global ecumenical movement. Ilia II was for time a president of the World Council of Churches. While this title did not mean that he was involved in the day to day operations of the council, the position was a recognition of Ilia II's important and the revival of post-- of the churches in post-Soviet space. In the 1990s, the Orthodox churches in general and the Orthodox Church in Georgia in particular, began more closely to assess their participation in dialog with other Christian bodies. Some of the non-canonical churches calling themselves Orthodox had proclaimed ecumenism a heresy and this notion began to be expressed in all parts of orthodoxy including Georgia's two non-canonical Orthodox churches that have existed in Georgia. One of them styled at first as the true Orthodox Church of Georgia, was under the authority of-- the Metropolitan of Boston. Yes, Boston, Massachusetts, at the Monastery of the Holy Transfiguration in Brooklyn, Massachusetts. The other was led-- the other was a small group led by the violent and notorious Father Basil Mkalavishvili and under the authority of a Schismatic Greek Church known as the Synod of Resistance. Some of the monks of the Orthodox Church were also almost in schism from the main church over the issue of ecumenism. Their influence was part of the Georgian church's decision to leave both the World Council of Churches and the Conference of European Churches in 1997. Officially, the Georgian Synod cited that, "World Council of Churches leaderships continued efforts to endow the organization with unified ecclesiological functions", and the WCC's alleged "failure to take interests of the Orthodox Church fully into account" as reasons for their action. Many of the anti-ecumenical monks were disciplined for their rebellion despite the fact that some of their agenda was enacted and has remained the position of the Orthodox Church in Georgia ever since. As an example of this in the preliminary meetings of the Orthodox churches for the Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church soon to take place on Crete and in subsequent articles, Georgian authors have been very critical of any ongoing dialog with other communities who call themselves Christian. Their first point and really their only point is that there can only be one holy Catholic and Apostolic church and that all the heterodox are therefore not the church. They have also encouraged the designation of ecumenism as heresy. This of course has also repercussions in how the Orthodox Church deals with the other Christians and non-Christians in the Republic of Georgia. One of my sources said well, they're actually doing business for Moscow, the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian church while the Russian church can look-- can have its hands clean from disrupting the Great Synod. Another large conflict of the Orthodox Church in Georgia has involved a small LGBT community there. This conflict came to a head on May 17, 21013. A small group of demonstrators, only a couple of dozen at the most had gathered in Tbilisi to observe the international day against homophobia. They were besieged by a huge counterdemonstration led by Orthodox priests all of whom priests and other demonstrators were breathing violence against the first group. Those observing the Idaho Day as its called fearing for their very lives were hustled on to buses by police. The Orthodox Church has since named the 17th of May to be Family Day. This year, it was observed by the presence of the World Congress of Families, a group founded in the United States encouraged by official Russia and a group that has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Now, I recognize that this issue is one of no small controversy and one that cannot be dealt with at length here. I would drop one observation however into the mix. Some officials of the Orthodox Church referred to homosexuality as a disease. They do not necessarily however mean this as an individual's disease which would then elicit a pastoral response but rather they consider the disease of the body politic, that must therefore be eradicated from the nation in order to avoid apocalyptic consequences. That's another talk altogether. But since we are at the Library of Congress, I thought it would be appropriate to do some bibliographic work, specifically to speak of some of the resources published by the Orthodox Church in Georgia. Periodical literatures slowly began to become available in the late 1980s and early 1990s published by the church. There were also other pub-- also other religious publications, there was something called the Old Orthodox Union that was publishing newspapers in the summer of 1990. They were off the charts obscurantists. Where the first journals was called [inaudible] is the Cross of the Grapevine will reference to the cross of St. Nino that is described in hagiography, first published in 1989. An important newspaper Motley [assumed spelling] or Grace as you here, appeared first in April 1990. These and other publications has this primary goal, the basic education of the faithful, who had generally been prohibited from learning much of anything about their faith. Some had been baptized along the way, a phenomenon not unknown in other churches across the Soviet Union, but were still ignorant of the fundamentals. As the Georgian economy strengthened at the beginning of the 20th century, and into its second decade, the number of magazines and journals proliferated in Georgia. One of my acquisition goals has been to acquire serial publications of all sorts but especially religious ones. I have been able to buy issues of the periodical published by the eparchy in Svaneti in farthest Ushguli at the Lamaria Church that was in the picture just in the shadow of the glaciers. And certainly, this is a sign of the revival of the orthodoxy in Svaneti. Just a sample of the others, there's something called Erti Kadageba, Once Sermon. As the title indicates, it's One Sermon by the patriarch or by an archbishop or a bishop or a priest or a monk and these come out quite frequently. At one time, there is something called Kvakutxedi or cornerstone. This builds itself as a national religious journal and so it's a little bit more on the conservative side wherein the church and the idea of church and nation, church and state is much more tightly held. Some of these, I don't know if they're in publication anymore, I didn't-- I certainly didn't see all of these when I was there earlier in May this year. Maxvili Mesiisa, the Sword of the Messiah and this is the official publication of the Urbnisi and Ruisi Eparchy which is Northwest of Tbilisi. I'm sorry, Mcqemsi Keteli, Good Shepherd which is just a general publication. Krialosani or Prayer Beads, another publication that tends to be on the conservative side, Pudze or foundation, and this is especially for Georgians who live outside of Georgia. This and another one of-- with the same goal could be found generally only at the big Church of the Holy Trinity with the idea of the pilgrims visiting the homeland, would certainly visit the new cathedral and there, they could buy these publications. I didn't see either one of them last month. Natlia or godparent, Axalgazrdoba, especially for youth, Tanamemamule, which means compatriot was another publication for Georgians living outside of Georgia. And as some of the Georgians will know, the any Georgian living outside of Georgia is only temporarily living outside of Georgia. His holiness and the attitude, Ilia II and some of his pastoral letters in the long list of people he is addressing, will refer to those Georgians temporarily living outside of the homeland. This is Gza da Cheshmariteba, The Way and Truth which is the official paper of the Alaverdi Diocese that is in Eastern Georgia, you can buy some of the monks' honey here. The church has been-- has been redone since the first time I saw it in 1990 when it was-- the inside was all taken up with scaffolding of the sort that made my fear of heights much exaggerated. Aliluia, a children's publication and Maqvlovani. This refers to the bramble bush under which St. Nino lived during her early years in Mtskheta but it's also the word that's used for the bramble bush in Exodus 3 where Moses encounters the Divine Being in the burning bush and as we know, the burning bush is a type of a prefiguration of the Virgin Mary, that is something in which divinity was enclosed but was not consumed by divinity. So, we've got Saint Nino and Moses and the blessed Virgin Mary all expressed and the title of this journal put out by the women's monastery in Mtskheta. This then has been a very short précis of the Orthodox Church in Georgia in some of its growth into the leading institution in Georgian society and a brief introduction to some of the issues that this church has faced in this first generation of Georgia's new independence. Thank you and I think there's a few minutes for questions. Just a few, three questions. You want to moderate the questions? Anybody got a question? Alex. [ Inaudible Question ] Crowded. [ Inaudible Question ] Controversially rebuilt, yes. [ Inaudible Question ] Part of it is architectural, I didn't show you the backside of it which has some modifications that basically, I think what they did was they put a part of the old ruins on the side of the church in an enclosure that doesn't match anything, in a dark-- I think mostly glass enclosure, right. But it looks out of place and of course, on the UNESCO list of things, rebuilding things from ruins is essentially a no-no but I suppose I do side with the church on this one that the most important thing about a church is that you can use it and being ruins, you can't use it so you fix it. Now, they might have fixed it better but that's the principle. Yes? [ Inaudible Question ] They're locals. A lot of them, converts at the end of the Soviet period in the early period of independence. Some have accused the clergy of being rushed into their orders and not having received enough education. Some also say that they're thieves but that's another-- that's probably more of a-- an assessment of people who don't like the church at all but there is a problem with education because the theological educational institutions just weren't there. And it's been a long process and, you know, 25 years is too short a time to really to regroup. Cathy? [ Inaudible Question ] I'm sorry, the second part of that question? >> Cathy: I'm sorry? >> Paul Crego: The second part of the question? [ Inaudible Questions ] Oh, the Georgian or the Russian churches very much agree on ecumenism. They don't like it. Even though the Russian Church at Synod, the upcoming Synod has tried to play itself above the fray statements over the last 20 years have been generally fairly anti-ecumenical as to the other part of your question which was Registration, I don't believe there is a registration but there are still property disputes. I heard-- when I was there in May, I heard about a Catholic church being taken over by an Orthodox church and having its Catholic things taken out and whitewashed and such. One more, Angela? [ Inaudible Question ] There are some priests that say nice things about Stalin but I would say Stalin is remembered better in Russia than is in Georgia and that's been my impression. So, is that-- [ Inaudible Remark ] Oh, by older people sometimes but it's so different from what it was. I mean, having been there in 1990 and having returned 10 times after that, I would never go back to the empty shelves of 1990. I mean that there were very difficult years in the early '90s in Georgia but-- and there's still difficulties because of the wide income ranges that are present there. Lots of poverty and a few people like former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili who have so much money that in his well, I can only call it a palace and my reference is too, well, if you watched the Jetsons and if you wanted to design a house of a rich man on a hill that would fit into the Jetsons, this would be it. He has a shark at least, and a zebra and penguins in this building. And he also has a place out in Western Georgia and recently, there were pictures of a large tree that he had uprooted somewhere being taken on a barge over the Black Sea to wherever it was going to be transplanted. But that's Bidzina. >> Levon Avnoyan: Yeah? Stay here. All right, this has been as I said for me to introduce Paul who's not only a valued colleague but a friend. I think he will agree with me when I say that Georgia is a place you want to visit, you have to visit and you will always remember visiting. It's-- It is special place along with Armenia and Georgia, special place in both our hearts. I want to thank Dr. Crego for a superb lecture. I would love to thank you for coming, especially on this hot holiday week and I hope you'll consider visiting the African and Middle Eastern Division to do your research or just to visit in a few trips. And on June 10th, please consider attending these-- the all-day seminar conference on the Assyrians, the modern day Assyrians and Paul, thank you so much. >> Paul Crego: You're welcome. [ Applause ] >> This has been a presentation of the Library of Congress. Visit us at loc.gov.

Contents

History

Origins

Traditions regarding Christianity's first appearance in Iberia and Colchis

According to Georgian Orthodox Church tradition, the first preacher of the Gospel in Colchis and Iberia (modern-day Western and Eastern Georgia) was the apostle Andrew, the First-called. According to the official church account, Andrew preached across Georgia, carrying with him an acheiropoieta of the Virgin Mary (an icon believed to be created "not by human hand"), and founded Christian communities believed to be the direct ancestors of the Church.[8] However, modern historiography considers this account mythical, and the fruit of a late tradition, derived from 9th-century Byzantine legends about the travels of St. Andrew in eastern Christendom.[9] Similar traditions regarding Saint Andrew exist in Ukraine, Cyprus and Romania. Other apostles claimed by the Church to have preached in Georgia include Simon the Canaanite (better known in the West as Simon the Zealot) said to have been buried near Sokhumi, in the village of Anakopia, and Saint Matthias, said to have preached in the southwest of Georgia, and to have been buried in Gonio, a village not far from Batumi. The Church also claims the presence in Georgia of the Apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus, coming north from Armenia.

The Conversion of Iberia

Saint Nino of Cappadocia, baptizer of the Georgians.
Saint Nino of Cappadocia, baptizer of the Georgians.
Part of a series on
Georgians
ქართველები
Nation
Georgia
Ancient Kartvelian people
Subgroups
Culture
Languages
Religion
Symbols
History of Georgia

The propagation of Christianity in present-day Georgia before the 4th century is still poorly known. The first documented event in this process is the preaching of Saint Nino and its consequences, although exact dates are still debated. Saint Nino, honored as Equal to the Apostles, was according to tradition the daughter of a Roman general from Cappadocia. She preached in the Kingdom of Iberia (also known as Kartli) in the first half of the 4th century, and her intercession eventually led to the conversion of King Mirian III, his wife Queen (later Saint) Nana and their family. Cyril Toumanoff dates the conversion of Mirian to 334, his official baptism and subsequent adoption of Christianity as the official religion of Iberia to 337.[10] From the first centuries C.E., the cult of Mithras, pagan beliefs, and Zoroastrianism were commonly practiced in Georgia.[11] However, they now started to gradually decline, even despite Zoroastrianism becoming a second established religion of Iberia after the Peace of Acilisene in 378, and more precisely by the mid-fifth century.[12]

The royal baptism and organization of the Church were accomplished by priests sent from Constantinople by Constantine the Great. Conversion of the people of Iberia proceeded quickly in the plains, but pagan beliefs long subsisted in mountain regions. The western Kingdom of Lazica was politically and culturally distinct from Iberia at that time, and culturally more integrated into the Roman Empire; some of its cities already had bishops by the time of the First Council of Nicea (325).

Expansion and Transformation of the Church

The conversion of Iberia marked only the beginnings of the formation of the Georgian Orthodox Church. In the next centuries, different processes took place that shaped the Church, and gave it, by the beginning of the 11th century, the main characteristics that it has retained until now. Those processes concern the institutional status of the Church inside Eastern Christianity, its evolution into a national church with authority over all of Georgia, and the dogmatic evolution of the church..

The long path to autocephaly

In the 4th and 5th centuries, the Church of Iberia was strictly subordinate to the Apostolic See of Antioch: all bishops were consecrated in Antioch before being sent to Iberia.[13] Around 480, in a step towards autocephaly, the Patriarch of Antioch Peter the Fuller elevated the Bishop of Mtskheta to the rank of Catholicos of Iberia with the approval, or at the instigation, of the Byzantine emperor Zeno.[14] The Church remained subordinate to the Antioch Church; the Catholicos could appoint local bishops, but until the 740s, his own election had to be confirmed by the synod of the Church of Antioch, and even after the 8th century, annual payments were made to the Church of Antioch.[15]

In 1010, the Catholicos of Iberia was elevated to the honor of Patriarch. From then on, the premier hierarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church carried the official title of Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia.

Territorial expansion and birth of a national church

Jvari Monastery, near Mtskheta, one of Georgia's oldest surviving monasteries (6th century)
Jvari Monastery, near Mtskheta, one of Georgia's oldest surviving monasteries (6th century)

At the beginnings of the Church history, what is now Georgia was not unified yet politically, and would not be until the beginnings of the 11th century. The western half of the country, mostly constituted of the kingdom of Lazica, or Egrisi, was under much stronger influence of the Byzantine Empire than eastern Iberia, where Byzantine, Armenian and Persian influences coexisted. Such division was reflected in major differences in the development of Christianity.

In the east, from the conversion of Mirian, the church developed under the protection of the kings of Iberia, or Kartli. A major factor in the development of the church in Iberia was the introduction of the Georgian alphabet. The impulse for a script adapted to the language of the local people stemmed from efforts to evangelize the population. A similar dynamic led to the creation of the Armenian alphabet. The exact origin of the script is still debated, but must have happened in the second half of the 4th century or the early 5th century.[16][17] The introduction of monasticism, and its tremendous development, in Iberia in the 6th century encouraged both foreign cultural inputs and the development of local written works. From that moment, together with translations of the Bible, ecclesiastical literature in Georgian was produced in Iberia, most prominently biographies of saints, such as the "Martyrdom of the Holy Queen Shushanik" and the "Martyrdom of Saint Abo". Many of the saints from the first centuries of the church were not ethnic Georgians (Shushanik was an Armenian princess, Abo an Arab), showing that the church had not yet acquired a strictly national character.[18]

This changed only during the 7th century, after the wide political and cultural changes brought about by the Muslim conquests. This new menace for local culture, religion, and autonomy, and the difficulties to maintain constant contact with other Christian communities, led to a drastic cultural change inside the Church, which became for the first time ethnically focused: it evolved into a "Kartvelian Church".[19] The bishops and Catholicos were now all ethnic Georgians, as were the saints whose "Lives" were written from that period.[19]

In the western half of Georgia, ancient Colchis, which had remained under stronger Roman influence, local churches were under jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and were culturally and linguistically Hellenistic. Bishops from the port cities took part in ecumenical councils, from the Council of Nicea (325) together with those from the Byzantine territories. From the 6th century, those churches, whose language remained Greek, were headed by a metropolitan in Phasis.[20][21] The integration of the Black sea coastal regions into what came to be known as Georgia was a long process. A first step came with the Arab invasions of the 7th and 8th centuries, which mostly affected Iberia. Refugees, among them noblemen such as Archil of Kakheti, took shelter in the West, either in Abkhazia or Tao-Klarjeti, and brought there their culture. Such movements led to the progressive merge of western and eastern churches under the latter, as Byzantine power decreased and doctrinal differences disappeared.[22] The western Church broke away from Constantinople and recognized the authority of the Catholicos of Mtskheta by the end of the 9th century.[23] Political unification under the Bagrationi dynasty consolidated this evolution by the end of the 10th century: in a single, unified Kingdom of Georgia, there would be a unified Georgian Church.

Relations with the Armenian and Byzantine churches

During the first centuries of Christianity, the South Caucasus was culturally much more united than in later periods, and constant interactions between what would become the Georgian and Armenian Churches shaped both of them.[24][25] The Armenian Church was founded two decades earlier, and was during the 4th century larger and more influential than the Church in Iberia. As such, it exerted strong influence in the early doctrine of the Church.[26] The influence of the Church of Jerusalem was also strong, especially in liturgy. The Georgian-Armenian ecclesial relationship would be tested after the Council of Chalcedon (451), whose christological conclusions were rejected by the Armenian Church and important portions of the Church of Antioch, as well as the Coptic Church based in Alexandria.

At first, the Catholicoi of Iberia chose the anti-Chalcedonian camp together with the Armenians, even though diversity of opinions was always present among the clergy, and tolerated by the hierarchy.[27] The king of Iberia, Vakhtang Gorgasali, who sought an alliance with Byzantium against the Persians, accepted the Henotikon, a compromise put forward by the Byzantine Emperor Zeno in 482.[28] Such conciliation was attempted again at the First Council of Dvin in 506, and the status quo was preserved during the 6th century.

Around 600 however, tensions flared between the Armenian Apostolic Church and the church in Iberia, as the Armenian Church attempted to assert prominence in the Caucasus, in both hierarchical and doctrinal matters, whereas the Catholicos of Mtskheta, Kirion I, leaned towards the Byzantine, Chalcedonian side of the debate, as Iberia was once again seeking imperial support against the Sassanid Empire, who had abolished the Kingdom in 580. The Third Council of Dvin, in 607, sanctioned the rupture with the Armenian Church.[28][29]

The following centuries confirmed the Byzantine orientation of the Georgian Church, and its estrangement from the Armenian Church. Confessional disputes remained impossible to overcome, and were a staple of theological literature in both areas. The integration of western and eastern Georgian churches from the 9th century also sealed the Orthodox nature of the Georgian Church, as Byzantine liturgy and cultural forms spread to the detriment of traditional Oriental practice.[30]

The Church during the Golden Age of Georgia

Between the 11th and the early 13th centuries, Georgia experienced a political, economical and cultural golden age, as the Bagrationi dynasty managed to unite western and eastern halves of the country into a single kingdom. To accomplish that goal, kings relied much on the prestige of the Church, and enrolled its political support by giving it many economical advantages, immunity from taxes and large appanages.[31] At the same time, the kings, most notably David the Builder (1089–1125), used state power to interfere in church affairs. In 1103, he summoned the council of Ruisi-Urbnisi, which condemned Armenian Miaphysitism in stronger terms than ever before, and gave unprecedented power, second only to the Patriarch, to his friend and advisor George of Chqondidi. For the following centuries, the Church would remain a crucial feudal institution, whose economical and political power would always be at least equal to that of the main noble families.

Cultural influence of Christianity in Medieval Georgia

A page from a rare 12th century Gelati Gospel depicting the Nativity
A page from a rare 12th century Gelati Gospel depicting the Nativity

During the Middle Ages, Christianity was the central element of Georgian culture. The development of a written Georgian culture was made possible by the creation of the Georgian alphabet for evangelization purposes. Monasticism played a major role in the following cultural transformation. It started in Georgia in the 6th century, when Assyrian ascetic monks, known as the Thirteen Assyrian Fathers, settled in Iberia and founded a series of monasteries, most notably David Gareja.[32] They were soon joined by local monks, which led to the creation of significant works of hagiographic literature in Georgian, such as the "Life of Saint Nino" and the "Martyrdom of the Holy Queen Shushanik". The golden age of Georgian monasticism lasted from the 9th to the 11th century. During that period, Georgian monasteries were founded outside the country, most notably on Mount Sinai, Mount Athos (the Iviron monastery, where the Theotokos Iverskaya icon is still located), and in Palestine.[33] The most prominent figure in the history of Georgian monasticism is judged to be Gregory of Khandzta (759–861), who founded numerous communities in Tao-Klarjeti.

Specific forms of art were developed in Georgia for religious purposes. Among them, calligraphy, polyphonic church singing, cloisonné enamel icons, such as the Khakhuli triptych, and the "Georgian cross-dome style" of architecture, which characterizes most medieval Georgian churches. The most celebrated examples of Georgian religious architecture of the time include the Gelati Monastery and Bagrati Cathedral in Kutaisi, the Ikalto Monastery complex and Academy, and the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in Mtskheta.

Outstanding Georgian representatives of Christian culture include Peter the Iberian (Petre Iberieli, 5th century), Euthymius of Athos (Ekvtime Atoneli, 955–1028), George of Athos (Giorgi Atoneli, 1009–1065), Arsen Ikaltoeli (11th century), and Ephrem Mtsire, (11th century). Philosophy flourished between the 11th and 13th century, especially at the Academy of Gelati Monastery, where Ioane Petritsi attempted a synthesis of Christian, aristotelician and neoplatonic thought.[34]

The division of the Church (13th–18th centuries)

The Mongol invasions in the 13th century and Tamerlane in the 14–15th century greatly disrupted Georgian Christianity. The political unity of the country was broken several times, and definitely in the 1460s. Churches and monasteries were targeted by the invaders, as they hosted many treasures. As a result of those devastations, many fell into disrepair or were abandoned.[35] In the western half of Georgia, the Catholicate of Abkhazia was established following the Mongol rule. It seceded from the Mtskheta see as the Kingdom disintegrated, and the western Catholicos thereafter assumed the title of Patriarch. This rival seat, based first in Pitsunda, then at the Gelati Monastery near Kutaisi, subsisted until 1795.[36] During those times, contacts with the Catholic Church increased, first as a way to liberate itself from meddling by the Byzantine Church, then to find stronger allies against invaders. Between 1328 and the early 16th century, a Catholic bishop had his see in Tbilisi to foster those contacts. However, formal reunion with Rome never happened, and the Church remained faithful to Eastern Orthodoxy.[35]

In the next centuries, Georgia, weakened and fragmented, fell under the domination of the Ottoman and successive Persian (Safavid, Afsharid, and Qajar) Empires: mostly, the Ottomans ruled the West of the country, the Persians the East, while generally allowing autonomous Georgian kingdoms to subsist under their control. With the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Georgian Christians had lost their traditional recourse against Muslims, and were left to themselves.

New martyrs were canonized by the Church after each invasion, most notably Queen Ketevan of Kakheti, who was tortured to death in 1624 for refusing to renounce Christianity on the orders of Abbas I of Persia (Shah-Abbas). Not all members of the royal families of Kartli and Kakheti were so faithful to the Church, though. Many of them, to gain Persian favor, and win the throne over their brothers, converted to Islam, or feigned to, such as David XI of Kartli (Daud Khan). Other noblemen, such as Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani, left the weakened local Church for Catholicism, as missionaries were bringing the printing press and western culture to Georgia around 1700. Only the emergence of a strong Orthodox power, the Russian Empire, could reinforce during the 18th century the status and prestige of the Church among the elites, and the shared Orthodoxy was a potent factor in the calls for Russian intervention in the Caucasus, to liberate Georgia from Muslim domination.[37]

The Church under Russian and Soviet rule

Patriarch Anton II of Georgia was downgraded to the status of an archbishop by the Russian Imperial authorities.
Patriarch Anton II of Georgia was downgraded to the status of an archbishop by the Russian Imperial authorities.

In 1801, the Kingdom of Kartl-Kakheti (Eastern Georgia) was occupied and annexed by the Russian Empire. On 18 July 1811, the autocephalous status of the Georgian Church was abolished by the Russian authorities, despite strong opposition in Georgia, and the Georgian Church was subjected to the synodical rule of the Russian Orthodox Church. From 1817, the metropolitan bishop, or exarch, in charge of the Church was an ethnic Russian, with no knowledge of the Georgian language and culture.[37] The Georgian liturgy was suppressed and replaced with Church Slavonic, ancient frescoes were whitewashed from the walls of many churches, and publication of religious literature in Georgian heavily censored. The 19th century was a time of decline and disaffection, as the church buildings often fell into disrepair, and the trust of people in the institution was diminished by its Russification and corruption.[citation needed] Calls for autocephaly became heard again only after the intellectual national revival that started in the 1870s; the local clergy made such calls during the 1905 revolution, before being repressed again.[38]

Following the overthrow of the Tsar Nicholas II in March 1917, Georgia's bishops unilaterally restored the autocephaly of the Georgian Orthodox Church on 25 March 1917. These changes were not accepted by the Russian Orthodox Church. After the Red Army invasion of Georgia in 1921, the Georgian Orthodox Church was subjected to intense harassment.[39] Hundreds of churches were closed by the atheist government and hundreds of monks were killed during Joseph Stalin's purges. The independence of the Georgian Orthodox Church was finally recognized by the Russian Orthodox Church on 31 October 1943: this move was ordered by Stalin as part of the war-time more tolerant policy towards Christianity in the Soviet Union. New anti-religious campaigns took place after the war, especially under Nikita Khrushchev. Corruption and infiltration by the security organs were also plaguing the Church. First signs of revival can be seen from the 1970s, when Eduard Shevardnadze, then secretary of the Georgian SSR's Communist Party, adopted a more tolerant stance, and new Patriarch Ilia II could from 1977 renovate derelict churches, and even build new ones. At the same time, nationalist dissidents such as Zviad Gamsakhurdia emphasized the Christian nature of their struggle against Communist power, and developed relations with Church officials that would come to fruition after 1989.[40]

Present-day status

The Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi (or Sameba Cathedral), built between 1995 and 2004
The Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi (or Sameba Cathedral), built between 1995 and 2004

On 3 March 1990, the Patriarch of Constantinople recognized and approved the autocephaly of the Georgian Orthodox Church (which had in practice been exercised or at least claimed since the 5th century), as well as the Patriarchal honour of the Catholicos. Georgia's subsequent independence in 1991 saw a major revival in the fortunes of the Georgian Orthodox Church.

The special role of the Church in the history of the country is recognized in the Article 9 of the Constitution of Georgia;[41] its status and relations with the state were further defined in the Constitutional Agreement, or Concordat, signed by President of Georgia Eduard Shevardnadze and Patriarch Ilia II on 14 October 2002. The Concordat notably recognizes Church ownership of all churches and monasteries, and grants it a special consultative role in government, especially in matters of education.[42][43]

Eparchies of the Georgian Apostolic Autocephalous Orthodox Church as of 2010
Eparchies of the Georgian Apostolic Autocephalous Orthodox Church as of 2010

Many churches and monasteries have been rebuilt or renovated since independence, often with help from the state or wealthy individuals. The Church has enjoyed good relations with all three Presidents of Georgia since independence was restored. However, tensions subsist within the Church itself regarding its participation in the ecumenical movement, which Patriarch Ilia II had endorsed (he served as head of the World Council of Churches between 1977 and 1983). Opposition to ecumenism was fueled by fears of massive proselytizing by Protestant denominations in Georgia. In 1997, faced with open dissension from leading monks, Ilia II rescinded Church participation in international ecumenical organizations, though he stopped short of denouncing ecumenism as "heresy". Opposition against Protestant missionary activity has remained strong in contemporary Georgia, and even led to episodes of violence.[44] Separatism in Abkhazia has also affected the Church: the Eparchy of Sukhumi, regrouping Abkhaz clergy, proclaimed in 2009 its secession from the Georgian Orthodox Church to form a new Abkhazian Orthodox Church; this move remained however unrecognized by any other orthodox authorities, including the Russian Orthodox Church.[45] The relations with the neighboring Armenian Apostolic Church have also been uneasy since independence, notably due to various conflicts about church ownership in both countries.[46] 83.9% of Georgia's population identified themselves as Orthodox in the 2002 census.[47] In 2002, it was reported that there were 35 eparchies (dioceses) and about 600 churches within the Georgian Orthodox Church, served by 730 priests. The Georgian Orthodox Church has around 3,600,000 members within Georgia[3][48] (no sources attempt to count members among the Georgian diaspora).

Structure

Holy Synod

The Holy Trinity Church (Tsminda Sameba) of Gergeti, in the mountains of Khevi
The Holy Trinity Church (Tsminda Sameba) of Gergeti, in the mountains of Khevi

The Georgian Orthodox Church is managed by the Holy Synod, headed by the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia. The Holy Synod is the collective body of bishops of the Church. In addition to the Patriarch, the Synod comprises 38 members, including 25 metropolitan bishops, 5 archbishops and 7 simple bishops. As of 2012, the following bishops are members of the Holy Synod, in such hierarchical order:[49]

Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia

The first head bishop of the Georgia Church to carry the title of Patriarch was Melkisedek I (1010–1033). Since 1977, Ilia II (born in 1933) has served as the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia and Archbishop of Mtskheta and Tbilisi. Here is a list of the Catholicos-Patriarchs since the Church restored autocephaly in 1917:[50]

See also

References

  1. ^ "Turkey remains on religious freedom "Watch List"". Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. 29 April 2010.
  2. ^ See below, The long path to autocephaly for details on the process
  3. ^ a b Grdzelidze 2011, p. 275
  4. ^ "A Retrospective on the 1921 Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Georgia". Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  5. ^ "Georgia's mighty Orthodox Church". BBC News. 2 July 2013.
  6. ^ Funke, Carolin (14 August 2014). "The Georgian Orthodox Church and its Involvement in National Politics". Central Asia-Caucasus Institute Analyst. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Georgian Orthodox Church (GOC) emerged as Georgia’s most respected and influential institution.
  7. ^ Rimple, Paul (21 November 2014). "Russia: Sochi Bets on Becoming the Black Sea Monte Carlo". EurasiaNet. The Georgian Orthodox Church, the country’s most influential institution...
  8. ^ "Patriarchate of Georgia – Official web-site". Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  9. ^ Rapp 2007, pp. 137–138
  10. ^ Toumanoff 1963, pp. 374–377
  11. ^ "GEORGIA iii. Iranian elements in Georgian art and archeology". Retrieved 1 January 2015.
  12. ^ "The Making of the Georgian Nation". Retrieved 2 January 2015.
  13. ^ Grdzelidze 2011, p. 272
  14. ^ Rapp 2007, p. 141
  15. ^ Grdzelidze 2011, p. 273
  16. ^ Grdzelidze 2011, pp. 264–265
  17. ^ Rapp 2007, pp. 139–140
  18. ^ Rapp 2007, p. 140
  19. ^ a b Rapp 2007, p. 144
  20. ^ Mgaloblishvili 1998, pp. 6–7
  21. ^ Grdzelidze 2011, p. 265
  22. ^ Rapp 2007, p. 145
  23. ^ Mgaloblishvili 1998, p. 7
  24. ^ Rapp 2007, p. 138
  25. ^ Toumanoff 1963, pp. 33-
  26. ^ Rapp 2007, p. 139
  27. ^ Rapp 2007, p. 142
  28. ^ a b Grdzelidze 2011, p. 267
  29. ^ Rapp 2007, pp. 142–143
  30. ^ Rapp 2007, pp. 144–145
  31. ^ Rapp 2007, p. 146
  32. ^ Grdzelidze 2011, p. 268
  33. ^ Grdzelidze 2011, p. 269
  34. ^ Grdzelidze 2011, pp. 271–272
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Works cited

External links

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