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Patriarch of Georgia: Our church and people never cut ties with Russia

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    http://rt.com/op-edge/patriarch-georgia-russia-ties-438/ Patriarch of Georgia: Our church and people never cut ties with Russia Published time: July 22, 2013
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 23, 2013

      Patriarch of Georgia: Our church and people never cut ties with Russia
      Published time: July 22, 2013 20:09

      Despite the South Ossetian war of 2008, close religious and human ties
      remain between Georgia and Russia, Patriarch of Georgia Ilia II told RT.
      He expressed hope that politicians in the two Orthodox states will “find
      a way out of the dead end.”

      On Tuesday, the most influential figure in Georgia’s religious,
      political, and public life is arriving in Moscow to celebrate the 1025th
      anniversary of the Christianization of Russia. Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia
      II is the only official in Georgia who has kept his ties with Russia.
      After the August 2008 War, Russia and Georgia severed diplomatic
      relations. So for the past five years, Patriarch Ilia has been the only
      Georgian representative to visit Russia. He has met with Patriarch of
      Moscow Kirill, and even President Putin. Their first meeting took place
      at the funeral of Patriarch Aleksy II, only four months after the war.

      Patriarch Ilia’s influence in Georgia is unprecedented. Polls conducted
      by US companies show that his approval rating has never been lower than
      92 per cent. Five years ago, the Patriarch personally spoke to Russian
      military commanders, visiting the war zone to bring out bodies of
      Georgian soldiers.

      Ahead of his visit to the Russian capital, Patriarch Ilia spoke to RT
      commentator Nadezhda Kevorkova.

      Russian citizens do not need visas to go to Georgia, but Georgians can
      only enter Russia if they have a letter of invitation. Several days ago,
      the administrative border - set unilaterally after the August 2008 war -
      was moved 300 meters towards Georgia. A fence is currently being built
      on the site.

      Russia and Georgia have different views on what happened five years ago.
      Georgia says that Abkhazia and territories around Tskhinval were
      occupied by Russia. But Russia’s position is that the Georgian army, on
      Mikhail Saakashvili’s order, attacked South Ossetia, and Russia had to
      defend the civilians, and then recognize independence of the two
      republics. The Russian Orthodox Church did not recognize the
      self-proclaimed independence of the two church communities, staying true
      to the unity of Orthodox Christians.

      Ahead of his visit to Russia, Patriarch Ilia talked about close ties
      between Russia and Georgia. Besides Orthodox Christianity, they have
      shared culture, traditions, history, poets, and even the most well-known
      Georgian and influential USSR leader Joseph Stalin.

      RT: Your Holiness, it’s been five years since the tragic events. In what
      way would you probably admonish our nations and what would you say? What
      would you tell those who have gone through such a tragedy in the history
      of our Orthodox nations?

      Patriarch Ilia: First of all, I’d like to greet everybody who will
      listen to or read this interview. I want to note that tense relations
      between Georgia and Russia have been artificially concocted. Despite all
      the difficulties between the two countries, Georgian and Russian
      churches managed to preserve the brotherhood, and so did our people –
      they preserved kind ties as well.

      We welcome Russian pilgrims with joy and they attend our prayers. Our
      pilgrims, in their turn, visit Russian sanctuaries and holy sites. It
      can’t last long – there are kind driving forces both in Russia and in
      Georgia which will stabilize these uncertain relationships and I believe
      that Abkhazia and Tskhinvali will become part of Georgia again.

      We have preserved these kind relationships with the Abkhaz and Ossetian
      people, too. As you know, I was born in Vladikavkaz. I graduated from
      high school there and I know the Ossetians quite well. They are kind and
      gifted people. We were so close with them that our family’s spiritual
      father was the Ossetian, Father Mikhail Dzatsoev.

      As for Abkhazia, I was a Metropolitan of Abkhazia for 11 years and can’t
      recall a single misunderstanding between us.

      I don’t think there are any barriers. In case we face a dead end, we
      should find a way out of it.

      RT: Your Holiness, at this point you are the only person who is given
      the spiritual authority – literally the only one who can communicate
      with Russia. Today you are one of the few people who may travel from
      Georgia to Russia at all. The fact that the Patriarch is the only one
      who can carry out negotiations is unprecedented. How should we regard
      this? How should we take this?

      PI: The negotiations can be carried out by both clergy and laity. There
      are no barriers. Moreover, we have a new government that is open for
      talks. And I believe such talks will take place.

      I am not the one carrying out the negotiations, let alone political
      ones. I just always express my opinion, because you can’t turn a blind
      eye to the complications that arose in the relations between Russia and

      I think we have always been fraternal nations and will stay this way –
      we just need to be frank with each other and shouldn’t do things that
      irritate the other side. For instance, the administrative border has
      been recently moved 300 meters further into Georgian-controlled
      territory. For Russia it means nothing but for Georgia, it is a lot -
      and it hurts.

      RT: How should we talk to about it?

      PI: In Georgia?

      RT: No, in Russia. We don’t understand who is in charge of it here in

      PI: The president says that it’s the scope of competence of our new
      prime minister. They must negotiate, meet, and discuss ways to solve
      these issues.

      Georgia cannot be divided. Our Lady will not allow this to happen. This
      would be a large sin. Abkhazia and Tskhinvali are territories which were
      originally part of Georgia.

      That’s why I think that Russians and Georgians as Christians will
      definitely find a way out of this complicated situation.

      I love Russia. I got my education there at the Clerical Seminary and the
      Clerical Academy in the town of Zagorsk (now called Sergiev Posad –
      translator’s remark) in the Holy Trinity Monastery of St. Sergius.

      I revere St. Sergius as my spiritual father and always pray to him. And
      when we had this wall painted, we put St. Sergius and Saint Seraphim of
      Sarov among Georgian saints, here in the second row.

      Yesterday we marked one of the remembrance days related with St. Sergius
      and I sent a wire with congratulations to Patriarch Kirill.

      RT: Is there anything else that unites our two nations?

      PI: We are united by everything that’s around us – not just religion,
      not just Orthodox Christianity and our culture. Georgians love Russian
      culture. Georgians love Russian literature and philosophy, especially
      the works of Pavel Florensky, Berdyaev, and others. When I was a student
      at the Seminary and the academy in the Soviet times, these books were
      banned by the authorities, but we still found a way to read them.

      RT: Today marks the anniversary of famous Soviet poet Vladimir
      Mayakovsky’s birthday…

      PI: Mayakovsky was born in Georgia. I read some of his works but he is a
      poet I don’t really understand. I’ll quote you a line: “A Bolshevik in
      tears? Should a museum put him on display? What a house he’d draw…” This
      is well-phrased but the meaning escapes from me.
      RT: While we are talking about significant actors of the 20th century
      I’d really like to ask you about Stalin. You should’ve noticed that the
      further we get from Stalin’s era in Russia, the more he becomes a
      personification of the proper, if not fair, statehood. In Georgia,
      people tell me that they don’t even consider him truly Georgian because
      he got so “Russified.”

      PI: No, he was both Georgian and Russian at the same time. He was of
      Georgian origin and he spoke fluent Georgian. He knew Georgian folk
      songs as well as chants. When he died, I was studying at the Seminary.
      We all gathered at the assembly hall and cried at his burial ceremony.

      Our Chancellor, Father Konstantin Ruzhitsky, told us a lot about
      Stalin’s personality. He learned it from Patriarch Aleksy I (Simansky).
      Aleksy I, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, was an exceptional
      individual. He was a man of great culture and spirituality. He truly
      respected and loved Stalin.

      One day, Stalin had a reception for Patriarch Alexy I, Patriarch Sergy,
      Metropolitan Nicholas (Yarushevich), and High Priest Nicholas
      Kolchitsky. So he asked them, ‘What is it that you need?,” and they
      replied that they were grateful that he gave permission to open
      churches. He responded, “No, that’s not enough. Go ahead and open
      Seminaries and clerical schools.’ He had studied at the Seminary too, so
      he knew the value of religious education.”

      Stalin was an outstanding person. Such people are quite rare. He
      understood the worldwide significance of Russia.

      RT: What did Stalin do for Georgia? Some people told me that he never
      took care of Georgia and that he should have done more for this country.
      However, I do know that some churches were opened in his time.

      PI: He just treated all the Republics equally. He didn’t single out
      Georgia in any special way. In World War II, however, the largest share
      of victims was among Georgians. I think he was a believer, especially in
      the end.

      RT: What would be your closing message for our audience?

      PI: We are living in a very complicated time of globalization. Russia
      and Georgia have accumulated a lot of spiritual values over centuries.
      So we have to ensure we don’t lose these values, i.e. our faith, our
      homeland, and our culture.

      I wish peace, prosperity and well-being to all peoples of Russia, and to
      our [Georgian] people as well. And I wish that the complicated
      Russia-Georgia relations would improve and never decline again.

      I am planning now to visit Moscow, and then Kiev, and Minsk. The Russian
      Orthodox Church and the entire Orthodox world are celebrating the 1025th
      anniversary of the Christianization of Russia, and we will be
      participating in these festivities.
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