The Abkhaz Orthodox Church's bid for independence
Services in Orthodox churches have been suspended in Abkhazia until the Russian Orthodox Church resolves the issue of the status of the Abkhaz Orthodox Church in a bid to receive autocephaly.
The Abkhaz Orthodox Church’s independent existence ended in 1795, and since then it has been officially part of the Georgian Orthodox Church. After the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict in the early 1990s, contacts between them ceased.
Father Vissarion of the Abkhaz Orthodox Church says, “due to the consequences of the conflict, the territory of Abkhazia has been without church nourishment for almost thirty years.”
Father Vissarion says that he has repeatedly asked the Moscow, Georgian and other Orthodox patriarchs to restore the Abkhaz Orthodox Church.
However, his request has been refused.
In 2009, the Abkhaz Orthodox Church was registered in Abkhazia itself with an unsettled self-proclaimed autonomous status. This happened after the Georgian-Russian “five-day war” in August 2008, when Russia officially recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia and most of the international community continue to regard these regions as Georgian territory.
“[Russian] clergymen have been released to their dioceses. Let them pose a question to their bishops, so that the bishops pose a question to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill: how to proceed?
We cannot be part of the Georgian church, we [earlier] were not part of the Georgian church and we will not be. It is impossible to be in such a situation for thirty years. I suspended services in churches ‘as a force majeur measure’, said Vissarion Aplia.
An exception to the moratorium has been made at the main cathedral in Sukhum, where he personally continues to conduct services there.
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In addition to the Abkhaz Orthodox Church, there is another unrecognized Orthodox Church in Abkhazia. It is called the Sacred Abkhaz Metropolis and is headed by Archimandrite Dorotheus (Dbar).
Archimandrite Dorotheos (Dbar) believes that the decision on the status of the Abkhaz Church can be made by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew the First.
It is the Patriarchate of Constantinople that is endowed with the status of the first among equals in the Orthodox world, says Father Dorotheos.
He did not join the moratorium, and services in the monastery under his supervision in Novy Afon are being held as usual.
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