President Shevardnadze yielded demand of the Georgian Orthodox Church and mass protest rally in Tbilisi and refused to sign agreement with the Vatican.
"The agreement between the Georgian government and the Vatican will not be signed," Deputy Foreign Minister of Georgia Kakha Sikharulidze told reporters on September 19. He said that the President, who participates in the CIS summit in Ukraine, ordered not to sign the agreement.
The agreement, setting down relations with the Vatican, was expected to be signed on September 20. The Vatican’s Foreign Minister Archbishop Jean Louis Tauran arrived in Tbilisi on September 18 to sign the agreement.
“There is nothing extraordinary in it. It's just a standard interstate agreement. Archbishop Jean Louis Tauran expressed regret concerning the failure to sign the agreement,” Petre Mamradze, the chief of the State Chancellery told reporters after the meeting with the Vatican’s Foreign Minister.
Couple of thousand people gathered today in front of the Parliament protesting the agreement with the Vatican. State Minister Avtandil Jorbenadze addressed the protesters and ensured them that the Georgian government will not sign the document.
The Georgian Orthodox Church also protested against the agreement.
''An interstate agreement between Orthodox Georgia and the Vatican cannot be regarded as expedient,'' the Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church Illia II said at a news briefing on September 18 before Tauran arrived in Tbilisi.
“We do not know details of this document. We signed a Concordat with the Georgian state [in 2002] and people knew the details of this document; it was publicly discussed. This agreement will cause serious problems for the Georgian government,” the Patriarch added.
Last October, President Shevardnadze and the Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Ilya II, signed a Concordat concretizing the church's relationship with the state.
The Concordat gives the Orthodox Church important privileges compared with other religious groups in Georgia. The Orthodox Church fears that the agreement with the Vatican would threaten its exclusive rights in Georgia.