The Georgian Orthodox church enters the political arena

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The Messenger, Georgia Jan 6 2006

The Georgian Orthodox church enters the political arena By M. Alkhazashvili, Translated by Tiko Giorgadze Georgian Orthodox Church fixed it position to the actual issues of the Georgian policy at the end of 2005. If in the past the Orthodox Church held back from involving itself in the political process, today it seems that the church is set to shift this stance and become more actively involved in current Georgian policymaking. Actually it has little choice as one of the controversial topics currently drawing attention is the very issue of the church's involvement in politics. Ombudsman Sozar Subari, the defender of Human Rights, recently spoke out against the special status that the Orthodox Church holds in Georgia. Subari's statement caused a public uproar as the Ombudsman was branded "anti-Orthodox" by all sides, although it should also be mentioned that Subari has also supported the translation of the Bible into the Svani and Megrelian dialects. After Subari's remarks, the Holy Synod held a session where they underlined that the constitutional agreement which was signed between the government and the Orthodox Church constituted a sound basis for their entry into politics. The Holy Synod aggreed: "To ask the President of Georgia to hasten the meeting of the double commission to facilitate the final accomplishment of the agreement," and went on to pledge that "The church itself will try to support the development process development," the newspaper Sakartvelos Respublika reports. The Holy Synod also discussed the issue of translating the Bible into Megrelian and Svani. They stated that today some powers want to fulfill the treacherous idea that the Russian empire artificially inspired at the end of 19th century. According to the ruling of the Holy Synod, offering special new translations of the Bible "suggests that Megrelians and Svans have been deprived of Christianity and that they are uneducated. Translating the Bible for these people in the 21st century aims to separate the nation and to destroy the country's territorial integrity," the newspaper Sakartvelos Respublika reports. The Holy Synod also dismissed statements made by some Armenian representatives about the many Armenian Churches in existence in Georgia as baseless and void of any historic basis. According to the Synod's rule "The aforementioned statements harms relations between the two countries and the two churches. Thus the Georgian Orthodox Church calls upon the Armenian Church in Georgia to prevent such damaging statements from being made, while the Georgian Church itself will not allow tensions to increase. The Holy Synod is also worried about the fact that the Georgian government has not been able to restore the territorial integrity of the country yet. However the church has the same relations with Abkhazian and Ossetian Christians, who are living in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali, as they have with Georgians living there and the Orthodox Church tries to care for their souls. The Church still helps IDPs from Abkhazia and Tskhinvali by working to improve their current conditions and hopes that "despite the problems faced by Georgian citizens on both sides, we will be able to reach reconciliation and to restore peace in the country." The Synod also expressed its irritation at the increased number of drug addicts in the country. They decided that the church should pay more attention to the school children; they should establish closer relations with schools, families so the church will be able to help the state to solve the problem.