Patriarch Ilia of Georgia tells clergy to refrain from political statements

Tbilisi, September 20, 2018

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“The Church has always been and always will be a politically neutral, unifying force in the nation,” His Holiness Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II said in a statement distributed today.

Given this, in his statement the beloved spiritual leader calls upon the clergy of the Georgian Orthodox Church to refrain from political statements in connection with the upcoming presidential elections, reports Interfax-Religion.

The patriarch’s words mirror those of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, whose canonical Church is actively persecuted by politicians and clergy-politicians: “Priests are called to be peacemakers, not politicians who divide the people.”

The election in Georgia is scheduled for October 28. In recent days, several metropolitans have made statements to Georgian media, urging people not to vote for the independent candidate, supported by the ruling Georgian Dream Party, Salome Zurabishvili.

“Unfortunately, several clergy have made statements of political content in connection with the upcoming presidential election, and at the same time have publicly spoken incorrectly about this or that political figure,” the patriarch’s statement reads.

Several Georgian media outlets have run stories with titles such as, “Georgian Church opposes Salome Zurabishvili,” and “Church protest becomes more acute and large-scale—clergy against Salome Zurabishvili,” giving the unfortunate impression that the Church as a whole has taken a position.

Pat. Ilia is the most trusted and beloved man in the entire nation, and his wise leadership has led to high confidence in the Church among Georgians. According to the most recent 2018 survey, 84% of the population positively evaluates the activities of the Georgian Church as an institution.

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