Senior clerics from the Georgian and Russian Orthodox Churches met Abkhaz leader Alexander Ankvab in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi, close to breakaway Abkhazia, on March 28.
News about the meeting was first reported by the Moscow Patriarchate’s foreign relations department in its press release on March 28. Georgian Patriarchate has not yet made any statement about the meeting and its representatives were not available for the comment.
Head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s foreign relations department, the Metropolitan of Volokolamsk, Hilarion, and Metropolitan of Borjomi and Bakuriani of the Georgian Patriarchate, Seraphim, participated in the meeting with the Abkhaz leader.
“Participants of the meeting exchanged views about existing situation and prospects of development of Orthodoxy in Abkhazia. Each participant of the meeting expressed their views about existing problems and about ways of resolving these problems,” the Moscow Patriarchate’s foreign relations department said in its press release.
“During the conversation, President of Abkhazia A.Z. Ankvab stressed that spiritual ties between the Abkhaz clergy, Abkhaz Orthodox Christians and Georgian Orthodox Church have long been lost and cannot be restored,” it said.
“The Metropolitan of Volokolamsk, Hilarion, [of the Russian Orthodox Church] expressed the belief that solution to the problem can only be found through strictly following canonical laws of the church.”
“Metropolitan Seraphim [of the Georgian Orthodox Church] has noted importance of church’s peacemaking service, directed towards strengthening of friendship between the peoples,” the Moscow Patriarchate’s foreign relations department said in its press release.
It said that the participants noted need to further continue “consultations and meetings on this issue in various formats.”
Formally the Russian Orthodox Church recognizes canonical borders of the Georgian Orthodox Church, which also includes Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Although formally the Russian Orthodox Church does not claim its clerical authority over Abkhazia, in practice Abkhaz Orthodox priests, who refuse to recognize Georgian Church's authority, are authorized to perform clerical services in Abkhazia by senior Russian clerics - mainly by those serving in Russia's regions neighboring with Abkhazia.
Few years ago one group of Abkhaz clergy launched a campaign to address the local Church's status limbo by calling for establishment of an independent Abkhaz Church; for that purpose the group, established on May 15, 2011 the Holy Metropolis of Abkhazia. The move was strongly opposed not only by another group of Abkhaz clergy, which dominated the region's church life for many years, but also by the Russian Orthodox Church.
During his recent visit to Moscow, Abkhaz leader met the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, on March 12.