State of emergency not extended to Georgian Orthodox Church
A state of emergency in Georgia from March 21 – April 21 aims to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
During this time period, mass gatherings of more than 10 people have been prohibited. Violators will face fines of 3,000 GEL [about $1,000], while legal entities will face a fine of 15,000 GEL. Repeat violation could lead to imprisonment for up to three years.
Georgian PM Gakharia evaded answering the question of journalists about whether the restriction on meetings of 10 people extends to the church as well.
The opposition and others say that the haste with which the emergency situation was introduced can be tied to the categorical refusal of the Holy Synod, which gathered at an emergency meeting, to suspend the mass services and temporarily change the rite of the sacrament, and not use one spoon for all parishioners.
However, even after the announcement of the state of emergency, a senior representative of the Georgian Orthodox Church (GOC) stated that the clergy would not submit to the state of emergency. An indirect confirmation of this attitude was the Sunday service on March 21 in the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, which took place during a mass gathering of believers.
The press speaker of the Patriarchate Andria Dzhagmaidze said that Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia came to the church after the announcement of the emergency, who told the clergy that the ban on meetings of more than 10 people should not be taken literally.
Speaker of the Parliament Archil Talakvadze, commenting on the ban on meetings of more than 10 people, was also quite vague. According to him, religion is one of the freedoms and human rights, as a consequence of participation in religious services.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure Maia Tskitishvili acknowledged that the ban applies to everyone without exception.
Meanwhile, the GOC recalls that April 19 is the most important Christian holiday – the Resurrection of Christ, and that it is preceded by the equally important Holy Week. According to Andriy Dzhagmaidze, in order to avoid the discomfort of believers, the government promised to cut the time of the emergency, if possible.
As of March 22, there are 54 coronavirus infected individuals in Georgia, 2956 people are in quarantine, and 291 people are under stationary surveillance.