Georgia pays special attention to split in Abkhaz Church

Abkhazia is preparing for a major church event, a council of all Orthodox Christians of the republic, which may elect a bishop, who may ask the ecumenical patriarch to recognize the independence of the Abkhaz Church. The idea was suggested by a group of young clerics led by Father Dorofey, who has broken off ties with the Russian Church and announced plans to enhance cooperation with the Patriarch of Constantinople.

The idea was supported by prominent Abkhaz politicians. The republic's authorities now consider Father Dorofey and Father Vissarion Alliya, who calls for enhanced ties with the Russian Orthodox Church, to be equals. Many experts believe that Georgia should support the Abkhaz Church's independence and its union with Constantinople.

According to Professor Georgy Anchabadze, the history of the Abkhaz Church dates back to the 8th century A.D., as well as the formation of the Abkhaz Kingdom. When speaking about the Abkhaz Church in those times, we speak about the church of Western Georgia, which was the core of the Abkhaz Kingdom. In the 16th century the position of Christianity in Abkhazia became weaker. The Abkhaz Catholicos moved to the Georgian city of Kutaisi. The Russian Empire abolished first the Church of Georgia and then the Abkhaz Church. The Russian Church has always been a rival to the Georgian Church in Abkhazia. Now there are a lot of young clerics who do not believe in successful relations with the Russian Church and call for union with Constantinople. The Abkhaz Church was once a part of the Constantinople Patriarchate and thus the ecumenical patriarch thinks such a union will be nothing more but the restoration of the Constantinople's rule in the region.

Union with Constantinople will mean that the Church of Abkhazia becomes free of Russian influence, the professor says. It's quite clear that Tbilisi is interested in an independent Abkhaz Church. Of course, the Georgian Church is against both variants, but from the point of view of politics, the Abkhaz Church's union with the Constantinople Patriarchate is preferable for Georgia, he says.

Political analyst Georgy Nodiya says it would be wise for Georgia not to interfere in this process. The country should not announce its position openly, he says. Of course it would be better for Georgia if the Church of Abkhazia  was independent, rather than a part of the Moscow Patriarchate. However, it would be unwise to announced it publicly, the expert believes.

This means that the project of an independent Abkhaz Church is actually anti-Russian and Russia should understand it and react.

Georgy Kalatozishvili. Exclusively to VK