The Georgian state will never take a step, which will be in conflict with “firm relations” the state and the Georgian Orthodox Church have, Manana Manjgaladze, the Georgian President’s spokesperson said on July 12.
“We appreciate a firm relationship, which traditionally exists between the state and the Church. These relations are strengthened not only by legal-constitutional agreement, but also by the place and role of the Georgian church in multi-century history. Naturally, the Georgian state will never take a step, which will be in conflict with these relationship,” Manjgaladze said.
Developments surrounding the legislative amendments, allowing religious minorities to be registered as legal entities of public law, marked one of the most serious public confrontations between the Georgian Church and President Saakashvili's administration. The Georgian Church’s several strong-worded statements against the legislative amendment and its hasty approval was followed by two days of protest marches, led by the Orthodox priests. On July 11, after meetings between senior clerics and ruling party lawmakers and some government officials, the Georgian Church’s main decision-making body, Holy Synod, released a statement on July 12, which was no longer demanding revoking the legislative amendment.
The President’s spokesperson also said that it was of fundamental importance to observe the principle of freedom of confession.
“The decision adopted by the Georgian legislative body last week was dictated just by this principle,” she said.
“It should be emphasized that this law has nothing to do with the solution of property or other disputable issues,” Manjgaladze said.
She was referring to remarks by some senior clerics from the Georgian Orthodox Church, which were saying that by obtaining status of legal entity of public law the religious minority groups were formally paving way for claiming ownership over several disputed churches in Georgia; focus in this regard was made on the Armenian Apostolic Church.
The President’s spokesperson also said that PM Nika Gilauri was ready “to work on any issue with the Georgian Orthodox Church in frames of a commission.”
In a statement on July 12, the Holy Synod called for setting up of a commission “to monitor implementation of provisions envisaged by the constitutional agreement” between the Georgian Orthodox Church and the state.