Two lawmakers from the United National Movement (UNM) party criticized head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Ilia II, for “speaking with excessive reverence” with President Putin while visiting Moscow last week and called on the Georgian Church to refrain from actions that might be used by “occupying power in detriment to our country’s interests.”
MP Zurab Japaridze and MP Sergo Ratiani, who joined the UNM ahead of the October 1 parliamentary elections, released the written statement on January 27; they sign the statement in their capacity of individual lawmakers rather than UNM representatives.
“Recently the Georgian Orthodox Church is actively involved in country’s foreign and domestic policy. We think that it’s impossible to leave without reaction the Patriarch’s recent visit to Moscow and his meeting with the Russian President,” the two lawmakers’ statement reads. “We understand that the Church and the Patriarch want Georgia and Russia to have normal, good-neighborly, peaceful relations, but we should not forget that Russia still occupies Georgia’s one-fifth of territories.”
“In such a condition speaking with excessive reverence to the leader of the enemy state will not serve as a message that can bring positive results for Georgia’s sovereignty,” MPs Ratiani and Japaridze said.
The two lawmakers say that Russia has been using “so called ‘peaceful policy’ for covering up its aggressive policies and already carried out occupation, including also with the help of the Russian Orthodox Church.”
“Georgia’s any spiritual or secular leader should keep it in mind while speaking about eternal ‘brotherhood’ with the empire, which has carried out Georgia’s occupation for several times and leveled Georgian churches to the ground… over the past 200 years,” the statement reads.
“There is only one reason behind problems between Russia and Georgia – that’s unambiguous decision of the absolute majority of the Georgian population to become part of the European Union and the Euro-Atlantic space. It has been confirmed for multiple times by President Putin… So statement that ‘what has happened… was the fault of separate individuals’ is totally unacceptable and damaging to our country’s national interests, which pours water into the occupying [power’s] watermill We call on the Georgian Church to refrain from actions which may be used by the occupying power in detriment to our country’s interests,” the two lawmakers said.
The reference here is made to Patriarch Ilia II’s remarks when he reportedly said during one of the receptions in Moscow that what had happened between the two countries was the fault of neither Georgia nor Russia, but was the fault of separate individuals. In Moscow, while accepting award from Russian Orthodox Church’s foundation the Georgian Church leader also said, according to the Georgian Patriarchate, that relations between the two countries “can be normal only if justice prevails and Georgia’s ancient lands – Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region are returned back to Georgia; that would be one of the major preconditions for resolving problems in the Caucasus.”
After return from his visit to Moscow, Patriarch Ilia II said in Tbilisi on January 26: “Our visit was successful and I think that it was a historic visit, which will be followed by positive results.”