450 churches of reconciliation or discord?

By Giorgi Kalatozishvili, Tbilisi. Exclusively for Vestnik Kavkaza

 

Vestnik Kavkaza published an article “Armenia wants to win some 450 churches of Georgia in court” was published last week. The article provoked a lively reaction from the eparchy of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Georgia, refuting the facts mentioned in it. At the request of the press service of the eparchy of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Georgia, Vestnik Kavkaza published the retraction. 

In the following material, the author of Vestnik Kavkaza justifies his position and brings counterarguments to the claims of the eparchy of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Georgia. 

In a response to my article “Armenia wants to win some 450 churches of Georgia in court” published by Vestnik Kavkaza on January 13, 2015, the press service of the eparchy of the Armenian Apostolic Church (AAC) in Georgia released a letter in an attempt to refute my arguments, using the well-known technology of substituting facts with their interpretation. It is noteworthy that the authors of the letter have not mentioned a word about the material ща Interfax about Armenia’s request to UNESCO to recognize Georgian churches as being Armenian, which confirms the main conclusion of my article with references to its own sources. 

It seems that staff of the press service of the eparchy of the AAC in Georgia considers a debate with me easier and more convenient than with a giant Russian information agency. Whatever the case, it is their right. Respecting the eparchy, I must note that the press service of the religious organization does not use very consistent tricks, cunningly “leading” the reader from the point. And the point is about the demand for the restitution of the 450 churches. That was what my article was about. The remarkably amazing "claims” in the conversation with me were commented in by Father Michael Botkoveli, the secretary of the holiest and most blissful Catholicos Patriarch of All-Georgia Ili II. 

So, first of all, I consider mentioning his words to be appropriate, then I will answer the other claims of the press service of the eparchy of the AAC in Georgia, based on the information and opinions of a competent and respectable source. 

“At first, we did not even believe that the eparchy of the AAC in Georgia addressed the prime minister of Georgia with the letter about “the restitution of 450 churches.” We did not believe it due to the absolute absurdity of the demand,” Father Michael said with bewilderment and sorrow in his voice in a conversation with me. 

“I wonder, does Armenia itself have that many churches if it found 450 “Armenian churches” in Georgia?” Father Michael Botkoveli called the actions of the eparchy of the AAC in Georgia “an attempt to complicate relations with the Georgian Orthodox Church” and stated: “We will have a very principled conversation with them to clarify some issues.” According to the secretary of the Catholicos Patriarch of All-Georgia, “the approach of the eparchy of the AAC in Georgia is unconstructive.” Father Michael emphasized that “the talk cannot theoretically be about only a few churches, compulsively with involvement of historians and art experts.” 

“The case with the church on Leselidze Street is the most essential symptom of what conclusions impartial scientists may come to most of the time,” concluded the interviewee, confirming the opinion of Paata Bukhrashvili, a historian and archeologist, expressed in an interview with Vestnik Kavkza. Bukhrashvili said that “there have been many cases in which Georgian foundations were discovered at excavations at Armenian churches in Tbilisi.” It seems that the historian meant the church on Lesidze Street too. Considering the aforementioned, the assertion of the press service of the eparchy of the AAC in Georgia that it “did not lay claims to any church belonging to the Georgian Orthodox Church” sounds strange. In that case, what churches would that be, if Father Michael Botkoveli expressed doubts about the presence of “450 Armenian churches” in Armenia itself, not to mention Georgia?! On other hand, an official of the eparchy of the AAC in Georgia leaked a word in an interview with Georgian media a little later that the letter to the prime minister does mention “Georgified Armenian churches.” 

This provokes the question of whether they claim any churches belonging to the Georgian Orthodox Church or consider part of the churches “Georgified Armenian churches” and demand their restitution. Both cases lead to total absurdity, so Georgia has “Georgified Armenian churches” that do not belong to the Georgian Orthodox Church.

The Georgian Orthodox Church has “Georgified” and forgotten about them, that is why they can be demanded back as “idle property.” 

The letter of the press service of the eparchy of the AAC in Georgia to Vestnik Kavkaza says: “The Georgian Orthodox Church has appropriated many churches, which had been operating as Armenian churches and serving to satisfy the religious needs of the parish of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Georgia from the day of the foundation and until Georgia’s joining the Soviet Union, without any approval from the Armenian Apostolic Church.” 

So, are they mentioned in the letter to the Georgian government or not? It would preferably be clarified for the reader. Asserting that “the issue on the status of a “legal body” of the public is not connected with the problem of restitution of property confiscated in the Soviet period, it was a different problem,” the authors of the letter to Vestnik Kavkaza are prevaricating. I only stated a fact: many did warn ex-President Saakashvili (who had made many naïve mistakes throughout his career) and were right because “a legal body” in any country is a subject of the law of the state and international law. The authors of the letter know this well enough. That is why I mention a tricky inscription suddenly appearing in one of the documents of the UN Human Rights Council that “problems related to the restitution of places of worship and related properties of religious minorities, confiscated during the Communist era, have not been resolved, and it recommended to the Georgian authorities to address the problems related to the confiscation of places of worship and related properties of religious minorities.” It is easy to figure that such “inscriptions” in serious documents of such authoritative international organizations appear as a result of the influence of some “groups of interests.” There is nothing obnoxious about that, but why consider the reader so naïve? The status of “a legal body is directly related to the opportunity for appeal at international institutions with even greater grounds. Concerning UNESCO, the situation is comical. In an interview with Georgian news agency Kvira, Levon Asakhanyan, the head of the legal section of the Georgian eparchy of the AAC, outspokenly denies the existence of any such plans. There is no such renunciation in the letter of the press service of the eparchy of the AAC in Georgia to Vestnik Kavkaza. It only states that “a whole set of international organizations has raised the issue many times in recent years.” But if there are no such plans to “internationalize the problem,” then why muddy the waters? Should it be insisted that the issue is not being taken to a stratum of interstate relations, and Armenian official delegations, being in Tbilisi (or receiving similar delegations in Yerevan) have not left the questions at quite the interstate level, not to mention the sensational visit of the head of the AAC to Georgia?

Another example of “the specific fib” of the staff of the press service of the respectable eparchy was a passage that the “matter of the restitution of Armenian churches in Georgia to the Armenian eparchy is a legal matter, not political.” In an age when even a football match or a religious caricature becomes a global-scale political affair, the problem of “the restitution of 450 churches” turns out to be out of politics. However, it concerns millions of people, and the authors of the letter know it well because they live in an atmosphere where such problems are perceived from a political perspective, whether we want it or not. Another astucious passage is the impermissibility of mentioning “the Armenian party.” For example, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg studies a lawsuit of a Georgian citizen against his own country, he is considered one “party”, the state is another. There is nothing offensive about this for either the state or a citizen or a group of citizens willing to be “a party” in a dispute. Not to mention that the Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church is a “side” in the dispute (according to Father Botkoveli’s aforementioned statements), which turns their opponents into “a party.” I admit that perhaps I should have omitted “the Armenian party” and should have clarified the subject, because many Armenians familiar consider the claims to “450 Armenian churches” in Georgia “utter nonsense and foolishness” of their authors. But this is only a subjective opinion that has a full right to exisy, just like all of us, certainly including the staff of the press service of the respected eparchy. 

Generally, the authors of the letter overly-often bring criticize me for stating the facts. Although, as a journalist, I have the right to express my own opinion, not only facts. I hope that the eparchy of the AAC in Georgia does not doubt my right fixed in the Constitution. Onesuch fact is Mikheil Saakashvili’s “deep sorrow” over “the clarion reception” organized for famed Vaagn Chakhalyan, which was attended and organized by the eparchy of the AAC in Georgia and went far beyond a modest “thanksgiving prayer.” Let me keep the right to express my opinion about the process. For example, in ex-President Saakashvili’s opinion, it looked terrible, as he said several times.

Finally, I express hope that Georgian state institutions would pay special attention to all issues concerning Georgian citizens and the congregation of the Apostolic Church, and give a competent answer, despite “information assaults” around the possession of “the 450 churches.” 

Maybe after the competent analysis that Father Mikhail Botkoveli was calling for, it would be revealed that there are actually fewer than 450 churches, just like Georgian churches on the territory of Armenia. With all due respect to the staff of the press center of the eparchy of the AAC in Georgia, Giorgi Kalatozishvili

 

 

FROM THE EDITORS 

Vestnik Kavkaza thanks the press service of the Georgian eparchy of the Armenian Apostolic Church for its attention to the information and analysis portal and its publications, where we try to state facts, describe problems and find solutions. Logic knows many ways to renounce a thesis, the most common of them is by rebutting it with facts. The fact is that the Caucasus is a common home for dozens of peoples, and it is impossible to create “special conditions” for a specific one of them at expense of another one, especially on a territory interlacing the material and spiritual riches of Armenians, Georgians, Russians, Azerbaijanis, Jews… Caucasians are fated to live together, and we are the ones to choose whether we treat each other with respect or hatred, whether we have immoderate appetites or are satisfied with what God has given us, whether we work for unification or for the separation of churches, territories and peoples.

By Giorgi Kalatozishvili, Tbilisi.Exclusively for Vestnik KavkazaVestnik Kavkaza published an article “Armenia wants to win some 450 churches of Georgia in court” was published last week. The article provoked a lively reaction from the eparchy of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Georgia, refuting the facts mentioned in it. At the request of the press service of the eparchy of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Georgia, Vestnik Kavkaza published the retraction. In the following material, the author of Vestnik Kavkaza justifies his position and brings counterarguments to the claims of the eparchy of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Georgia. In a response to my article “Armenia wants to win some 450 churches of Georgia in court” published by Vestnik Kavkaza on January 13, 2015, the press service of the eparchy of the Armenian Apostolic Church (AAC) in Georgia released a letter in an attempt to refute my arguments, using the well-known technology of substituting facts with their interpretation. It is noteworthy that the authors of the letter have not mentioned a word about the material about Armenia’s request to UNESCO to recognize Georgian churches as being Armenian, which confirms the main conclusion of my article with references to its own sources. It seems that staff of the press service of the eparchy of the AAC in Georgia considers a debate with me easier and more convenient than with a giant Russian information agency. Whatever the case, it is their right. Respecting the eparchy, I must note that the press service of the religious organization does not use very consistent tricks, cunningly “leading” the reader from the point. And the point is about the demand for the restitution of the 450 churches. That was what my article was about. The remarkably amazing "claims” in the conversation with me were commented in by Father Michael Botkoveli, the secretary of the holiest and most blissful Catholicos Patriarch of All-Georgia Ili II. So, first of all, I consider mentioning his words to be appropriate, then I will answer the other claims of the press service of the eparchy of the AAC in Georgia, based on the information and opinions of a competent and respectable source. “At first, we did not even believe that the eparchy of the AAC in Georgia addressed the prime minister of Georgia with the letter about “the restitution of 450 churches.” We did not believe it due to the absolute absurdity of the demand,” Father Michael said with bewilderment and sorrow in his voice in a conversation with me. I“I wonder, does Armenia itself have that many churches if it found 450 “Armenian churches” in Georgia?” Father Michael Botkoveli called the actions of the eparchy of the AAC in Georgia “an attempt to complicate relations with the Georgian Orthodox Church” and stated: “We will have a very principled conversation with them to clarify some issues.” According to the secretary of the Catholicos Patriarch of All-Georgia, “the approach of the eparchy of the AAC in Georgia is unconstructive.” Father Michael emphasized that “the talk cannot theoretically be about only a few churches, compulsively with involvement of historians and art experts.” “The case with the church on Leselidze Street is the most essential symptom of what conclusions impartial scientists may come to most of the time,” concluded the interviewee, confirming the opinion of Paata Bukhrashvili, a historian and archeologist, expressed in an interview with Vestnik Kavkza. Bukhrashvili said that “there have been many cases in which Georgian foundations were discovered at excavations at Armenian churches in Tbilisi.” It seems that the historian meant the church on Lesidze Street too. Considering the aforementioned, the assertion of the press service of the eparchy of the AAC in Georgia that it “did not lay claims to any church belonging to the Georgian Orthodox Church” sounds strange. In that case, what churches would that be, if Father Michael Botkoveli expressed doubts about the presence of “450 Armenian churches” in Armenia itself, not to mention Georgia?! On other hand, an official of the eparchy of the AAC in Georgia leaked a word in an interview with Georgian media a little later that the letter to the prime minister does mention “Georgified Armenian churches.” This provokes the question of whether they claim any churches belonging to the Georgian Orthodox Church or consider part of the churches “Georgified Armenian churches” and demand their restitution. Both cases lead to total absurdity, so Georgia has “Georgified Armenian churches” that do not belong to the Georgian Orthodox Church.The Georgian Orthodox Church has “Georgified” and forgotten about them, that is why they can be demanded back as “idle property.” The letter of the press service of the eparchy of the AAC in Georgia to Vestnik Kavkaza says: “The Georgian Orthodox Church has appropriated many churches, which had been operating as Armenian churches and serving to satisfy the religious needs of the parish of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Georgia from the day of the foundation and until Georgia’s joining the Soviet Union, without any approval from the Armenian Apostolic Church.” So, are they mentioned in the letter to the Georgian government or not? It would preferably be clarified for the reader. Asserting that “the issue on the status of a “legal body” of the public is not connected with the problem of restitution of property confiscated in the Soviet period, it was a different problem,” the authors of the letter to Vestnik Kavkaza are prevaricating. I only stated a fact: many did warn ex-President Saakashvili (who had made many naïve mistakes throughout his career) and were right because “a legal body” in any country is a subject of the law of the state and international law. The authors of the letter know this well enough. That is why I mention a tricky inscription suddenly appearing in one of the documents of the UN Human Rights Council that “problems related to the restitution of places of worship and related properties of religious minorities, confiscated during the Communist era, have not been resolved, and it recommended to the Georgian authorities to address the problems related to the confiscation of places of worship and related properties of religious minorities.” It is easy to figure that such “inscriptions” in serious documents of such authoritative international organizations appear as a result of the influence of some “groups of interests.” There is nothing obnoxious about that, but why consider the reader so naïve? The status of “a legal body is directly related to the opportunity for appeal at international institutions with even greater grounds. Concerning UNESCO, the situation is comical. In an interview with Georgian news agency Kvira, Levon Asakhanyan, the head of the legal section of the Georgian eparchy of the AAC, outspokenly denies the existence of any such plans. There is no such renunciation in the letter of the press service of the eparchy of the AAC in Georgia to Vestnik Kavkaza. It only states that “a whole set of international organizations has raised the issue many times in recent years.” But if there are no such plans to “internationalize the problem,” then why muddy the waters? Should it be insisted that the issue is not being taken to a stratum of interstate relations, and Armenian official delegations, being in Tbilisi (or receiving similar delegations in Yerevan) have not left the questions at quite the interstate level, not to mention the sensational visit of the head of the AAC to Georgia?Another example of “the specific fib” of the staff of the press service of the respectable eparchy was a passage that the “matter of the restitution of Armenian churches in Georgia to the Armenian eparchy is a legal matter, not political.” In an age when even a football match or a religious caricature becomes a global-scale political affair, the problem of “the restitution of 450 churches” turns out to be out of politics. However, it concerns millions of people, and the authors of the letter know it well because they live in an atmosphere where such problems are perceived from a political perspective, whether we want it or not. Another astucious passage is the impermissibility of mentioning “the Armenian party.” For example, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg studies a lawsuit of a Georgian citizen against his own country, he is considered one “party”, the state is another. There is nothing offensive about this for either the state or a citizen or a group of citizens willing to be “a party” in a dispute. Not to mention that the Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church is a “side” in the dispute (according to Father Botkoveli’s aforementioned statements), which turns their opponents into “a party.” I admit that perhaps I should have omitted “the Armenian party” and should have clarified the subject, because many Armenians familiar consider the claims to “450 Armenian churches” in Georgia “utter nonsense and foolishness” of their authors. But this is only a subjective opinion that has a full right to exisy, just like all of us, certainly including the staff of the press service of the respected eparchy. Generally, the authors of the letter overly-often bring criticize me for stating the facts. Although, as a journalist, I have the right to express my own opinion, not only facts. I hope that the eparchy of the AAC in Georgia does not doubt my right fixed in the Constitution. Onesuch fact is Mikheil Saakashvili’s “deep sorrow” over “the clarion reception” organized for famed Vaagn Chakhalyan, which was attended and organized by the eparchy of the AAC in Georgia and went far beyond a modest “thanksgiving prayer.” Let me keep the right to express my opinion about the process. For example, in ex-President Saakashvili’s opinion, it looked terrible, as he said several times.Finally, I express hope that Georgian state institutions would pay special attention to all issues concerning Georgian citizens and the congregation of the Apostolic Church, and give a competent answer, despite “information assaults” around the possession of “the 450 churches.” Maybe after the competent analysis that Father Mikhail Botkoveli was calling for, it would be revealed that there are actually fewer than 450 churches, just like Georgian churches on the territory of Armenia. With all due respect to the staff of the press center of the eparchy of the AAC in Georgia, Giorgi KalatozishviliFROM THE EDITORS Vestnik Kavkaza thanks the press service of the Georgian eparchy of the Armenian Apostolic Church for its attention to the information and analysis portal and its publications, where we try to state facts, describe problems and find solutions. Logic knows many ways to renounce a thesis, the most common of them is by rebutting it with facts. The fact is that the Caucasus is a common home for dozens of peoples, and it is impossible to create “special conditions” for a specific one of them at expense of another one, especially on a territory interlacing the material and spiritual riches of Armenians, Georgians, Russians, Azerbaijanis, Jews… Caucasians are fated to live together, and we are the ones to choose whether we treat each other with respect or hatred, whether we have immoderate appetites or are satisfied with what God has given us, whether we work for unification or for the separation of churches, territories and peopl

5480 views


Vestnik Kavkaza

in Instagram

Subscribe



Populars