The leader of Armenia's Apostolic Church, Catholicos Karekin II, arrived in Georgia on June 10.
Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Ilia II, told the Armenian Church leader in the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Tbilisi that the visit “is very important for us, as well as for Armenia.”
“I am sure your visit will further strengthen our friendly relations and I think that we will spare no efforts to strengthen our ties,” Ilia II said.
Schedule of Karekin II’s visit includes meeting with President Saakashvili and trip to Samtskhe-Javakheti, region predominantly populated by ethnic Armenian population; he will also visit Tsalka in Kvemo Kartli region.
Trip to Akhaltsikhe, Akhalkalaki, Aspindza, Ninotsminda and Tsalka is scheduled from June 13 to June 15.
A long-standing property dispute is likely to top the agenda of talks with Georgian church and government officials.
The Armenian Apostolic Church’s main concern remains the return of five churches in Tbilisi and one in Akhaltsikhe. According to the U.S. State Department’s annual report on international religious freedom, the status of at least 30 other churches claimed by the Armenian Apostolic Church remain disputed.
According to the same report officials from the Armenian Church claim, that the Georgian government was unwilling to resolve the issue of ownership of disputed church properties for fear of offending the Georgian Orthodox Church.
The Armenian Church Leader expressed hope while visiting the Holy Trinity Cathedral on June 10, that his visit to Georgia would help to resolve persisting disputes; he, however, did not give any specifics.