Constantinople Patriarchate’s visit unable to sway Georgian Church on autocephaly for Ukraine
Today’s meeting between a delegation from the Constantinople Patriarchate and the Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgia Ilia II has ended without any results.
The issue on the table – Georgia recognising the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
The meeting lasted for two hours and was attended by several members of the Holy Synod of the Georgian Orthodox Church, including the patriarch’s locum tenens Bishop Shio.
Shio noted that, despite the meeting, the Georgian Church remains unswayed in its opinion and is in no hurry to recognize the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
On 5 January, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew signed a document granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church from Moscow, thus ending a many-year struggle over the fate of Ukraine’s largest religious institution.
Bishop Shio noted that the Synod will discuss the issue in spring, but that the Georgian Patriarchate will not make any decisions on the issue before that time.
“It was a very important meeting. Most importantly, they expressed a dignified position in relation to our church, as they came here to convince us of making a decision. Also important is the fact that they are fully aware of the fact that we are not in a hurry (to make a decision). The Metropolitan repeated this several times during the conversation,” said Bishop Shio.
Journalists asked Shio how much influence the position of the Russian Orthodox Church regarding the autocephaly of the Ukrainian church has had on the process. Bishop Shio replied:
“Unfortunately, [there is this idea in Georgia] that our current opinion [is shaped by] Russian influence. In fact, today you yourselves have heard that the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople agrees with our position [on the matter].”
The head of the delegation of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Metropolitan of France Emmanuel, told reporters that the delegation’s goal was to inform the Georgian church about the details of the decision to grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian church and “not to put any pressure or impose its opinion”.
“We know that the Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgia has the wisdom to make the proper decision,” said Emmanuel, noting that “today, the main thing is to preserve unity between the Orthodox churches”.
Metropolitan Emmanuel said that the delegation’s visit to Tbilisi was not brought about by the fact that there are disagreements between the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Georgian church.
“We did not come because we had problems in relations with the Georgian Church. We have a common opinion, common voices, and it was an ordinary, brotherly, kind meeting between two churches,” said Metropolitan Emmanuel.
The delegation of the Patriarchate of Constantinople will also meet with Georgian government officials.
The autocephaly for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is not an easy matter for its Georgian counterpart.
One camp believes Georgia must tread carefully, arguing that should Georgia recognize the autocephaly of the Ukrainian church, Russia will recognize the independence of the Abkhaz church.
A few hours before the arrival of the delegation of the Constantinople Patriarchate, the Georgian Patriarchate announced that “hasty, short-sighted actions will not lead to good” in relation to the issue of the Ukrainian church.
The Georgian Patriarchate urged the clergy to remain calm:
“The provision of the Tomos to the Ukrainian Church has caused controversy throughout the Orthodox world, both in secular and church circles. We have also found that there are two camps trying to defend positions that they consider correct,” the statement said.