President praises 'firm authority' of Church as Patriarch of Alexandria visits
By Shorena Labadze
Tuesday, August 5
It has been a week since the arrival of the Pope and Patriarch of
Alexandria and All Africa Theodore II, whose visit to Georgia is
scheduled to culminate on August 7.
According to the Patriarchate's press speaker, the Pope has "come to
honor Georgia's chief religious leader, Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II."
The original invitation was extended last April to commemorate the
30th anniversary of Ilia II's Patriarchate, but as Theodore II was
unable to attend a later date was set to coincide with the day of
Saint Ilia the Righteous, celebrated on August 2.
In addition to a solemn liturgy conducted by Ilia II and Theodore II
last Sunday in connection to holy relics, the Pope presented the
remains of Saint Matthew the Mediator which were exhibited at Sameba
church in Tbilisi and Svetitskhoveli in Mtskheta. Parishioners had
the opportunity to kiss the skull of the saint, considered an
important rite of veneration for Orthodox Christians.
Also in attendance at the ceremonial mass was Georgian President
In his speech addressing the Pope, the president highlighted that the
increasing frequency of such visits reflects "a firm authority of the
Georgian Church and its leadership in the Christian world," and added
that the Patriarch "led Georgia for tens of years during its rise,
advance and now reintegration."
Speaking about the role of church in the revitalization of the state,
Saakashvili stressed that the ties between Christian nations must be firmer.
"We must do our best to reaffirm our spiritual connection as the
basis of better relationships and cooperation within the community,"
Saakashvili said. He also met privately with the religious leaders,
who gifted the president with holy icons.
Between meetings with legislative and executive government
representatives, the Pope of Alexandria and All Africa was decorated
by Ilia II with the highest merit of the Georgian Church: a gold
order blessed by Saint George. He in turn honored the Patriarch with
a holy cup from Egypt.
There is talk between the Patriarchs of conducting joint religious
liturgies in several churches throughout Georgia.
The Pope finishes out his journey with impressions of hope and
optimism: "I will go back to Egypt happy that I have seen that the
country is in the process of developing. Visiting here is a great
mercy for me. As soon as I return to Egypt, I will light a candle and
pray for Georgia."