CONSTANTINOPLE PATRIARCHATE AGAINST GEORGIAN CHURCH
Relations between Constantinople and Georgia are so tense that the conduct of the Pan-Orthodox Council may be called into question.
Gruziia-Online, 11 March 2016
Before the "Great and Holy Council," which is supposed to be held on the island of Crete on 16 to 27 June and which some call the eighth ecumenical council, stands a great confrontation, one of whose sides is the Georgian church. The confrontation has already moved out of the backrooms. The ecumenical patriarchate and the Georgian church have publicly addressed one another in an insulting tone and they have put forward accusations. The first accusation was advanced by the Constantinople patriarchate; they accused the Georgian church of "harsh and irritable behavior," "deadlocking" the question of conducting the Great and Holy Council, "fundamentalism," and "the wish to return to the middle ages." The Georgian side accuses Constantinople of an insulting and a humiliating attitude toward Georgians, the newspaper Rezonansi writes.
The Georgian side maintains that the Georgian delegates were not allowed to identify their position. Moreover, the "question of the full participation of the Georgian delegation in the work of the sessions was put to a vote, because of which the Georgian representatives felt offended." Relations between Constantinople and Georgia are so tense that the conduct of the "Great and Holy Council" may be called into question. Archpriest Georgy Zviadadze said in a conversation with Rezonansi that there is no confrontation between Constantinople and Georgia. Georgia simply answered the false accusations. "Simply, the Georgian Church answered so that everybody would know the truth. If someone writes a lie about you, wouldn't you answer him? That is how it is in this case," Father Georgy Zviadadze declared. He said that this does not mean that the Georgian Church will not participate in the "Great and Holy Council."
Fourteen of the world-recognized autocephalous Orthodox churches will conduct for the first time a great council, and this is a big event for the Orthodox world. It had been expected earlier that the preparation would occur against a background of big confrontation. But nobody was able to predict that the confrontation would take on such a public and insulting form and that the chief role in it would be played by the Georgian Church. It is planned to discuss only 6 question at the council. A decision will be made by means of consensus. Thus, the disagreement of even one church means that an issue is blocked, and therefore all 14 churches play a decisive role. The 6 issues to be introduced at the council were agreed upon in late June in Switzerland. Georgia disagreed with the introduction of only one issue in its present form, "the sacrament of marriage and reasons for its obstruction." Another issue, "the relations of the Orthodox church with the rest of the Christian world," was amended and Patriarch Ilia II signed it. At the time this was confirmed by Archpriest Georgy Zviadadze. But now it is over this signed document that an uproar has arisen.
In early March Archpriest Georgy Tsetsis of the Constantinople patriarchate published on the webpage of a Greek church news agency a letter under the title "Is the decision of the Georgian Church correct or a provocation?" In the letter he writes that the Georgian delegates "tormented them," until they obtained numerous changes in the document concerning "relations of the Orthodox church with the rest of the Christian world," in favor of their position. These changes were signed, but after a session of the Holy Synod in Tbilisi, this signed agreement was retracted, because of which the accusations began. The letter says that "the strict and scholastic conduct of the Georgian brethren who are participating in Orthodox meetings and commissions are annoying and have created a deadlock." But this may be partially explained by the misfortunes that the Georgian Church has experienced in the past 25 years.
The archpriest writes that the Georgian Church voluntarily joined the World Council of Churches in 1962. With financing of the council, the Georgian Church received humanitarian aid, but in 1997 Georgia quit the World Council of Churches under the influence, Georgy Tsetsis thinks, of fundamentalist circles. He said that the reasons for the withdrawal from the World Council of Churches was a "rebellion" of four primates and about 20 monastic elders who were under the wing of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia and the Cypriot Schism of Greek old-stylists, incited by political circles and drawn into plans for the creation of political disorders in the country, during which the retirement of Patriarch Ilia II was supposed to ensue. Father Georgy Tsetsis writes that it was no accident that the letter of the Georgian patriarch about withdrawal from the World Council of Churches was written two days after the appearance of armed rebels at the patriarchate.
The Greek clergyman concludes that the Georgian Church is captive to fundamentalist circles, and "therefore it would be better if Orthodox churches that have some influence in eastern Europe would send to Tbilisi an appeal that despite any fundamentalist attitudes and desires to return their country to the middle ages, one cannot call the decision to hold hostage 13 churches and more than 300 million believers brotherly." To be sure, the letter does not specify under which church's influence the Georgian Church is acting thus, but the great likelihood is that the author of the letter is alluding to the Russian Orthodox Church. (tr. by PDS, posted 19 April 2016)
Russian original posted on Portal-credo.ru, 15 April 2016
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