Tbilisi, December 18, 2017
He considers that only joint efforts can overcome the country’s demographic problem.
Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II of Georgia has called on all Georgians living abroad to return home, reports Interfax-Religion.
“My dear spiritual children, living abroad, I heartily greet you! A Georgian living abroad once said to me, ‘I love you like I love Georgia.’ I would like to repeat these words… ‘I love you like I love Georgia.’ We are waiting for you in the Motherland; you are very dear to us; you are our spiritual and national treasure,” the patriarch stated, appealing to Georgian emigrants during a demographics forum taking place in the country.
The event was also attended by representatives of parliament, governmental and public organizations, and representatives of the Georgian diaspora from various European countries.
According to the Georgian primate, the nation’s complex demographic situation is a problem for all Georgians, and that specific steps are being taken to regulate the situation. “However, we need more practical steps both from the government and from society to overcome the demographic problem,” the patriarch stated.
He stressed that “everyone should work to find effective steps for it.”
According to statistics, at least 200,000 Georgians were born abroad over the past 25 years. The Foundation for Demographic Revival numbers approximately 1,500,000 Georgians living abroad at the beginning of this year. Meanwhile, according to the National Statistics Service, the population of Georgia was 3,718,200 as of the beginning of this year. According to United Nations’ forecasts, the Georgian population could drop below 3 million by 2050.
Pat. Ilia also launched a famous initiative in 2008, wherein he becomes the Godfather for the third and later children of Orthodox couples, designed to encourage Georgians to have more children. Pat. Ilia is the most beloved and trusted man in the country, and thus parents consider it a great honor to have him as their children’s Godfather.
The first mass Baptism for the patriarch’s new Godchildren took place on January 19, 2008. The 51st such Baptism was recently celebrated, and the patriarch now has over 34,000 Godchildren thanks to the new initiative.