Georgian bishops will not vote to recognize schismatics, says Georgian theologian, despite OCU claims

Tbilisi, January 21, 2021

Pat. Iia and Georgian bishops meet with Met. Onuphry and a Ukrainian delegation in 2016. Photo: Pat. Iia and Georgian bishops meet with Met. Onuphry and a Ukrainian delegation in 2016. Photo:     

Despite the recent claim of “Metropolitan” Epiphany Dumenko of the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU), the bishops of the Georgian Orthodox Church will not vote to recognize his structure, according to a Georgian theologian who recently gave an interview to the Ukrainian outlet Spiritual Front.

Dumenko recently stated that there are several Local Churches on the way to recognizing his OCU, including the Churches of Georgia, Jerusalem, Romania, Bulgaria, and Albania, where the majority of the bishops and the primate support recognition.

However, according to theologian Mamuka Putkaradze, the Georgian Church makes decisions by consensus, and such a consensus does not exist among the hierarchs.

Dumenko’s claim has also been refuted by the personal advisor to His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel of Romania on inter-Church relations and His Eminence Metropolitan Gabriel of Lovech of the Bulgarian Church.

“Those who are against [recognition] are motivated by the fact that there is not unity in Ukraine yet,” Putkaradze said.

The canonical Ukrainian Church under His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine also maintains the position that unity is a necessary precondition for autocephaly, not a result of it.

The Georgian theologian’s testimony on this regard is all the more important precisely because he is in favor of recognizing the OCU.

For him, concerns about the lack of unity in Ukraine are just excuses. “But, unfortunately, the fact that the Georgian Church makes decisions by consensus, not majority vote, delays this step,” Putkaradze said.

In September 2018, the Georgian Church called for Moscow and Constantinople to work together on a solution to the Ukrainian schism, but the Holy Synod has not made any firm decisions on the matter.

While Epiphany Dumenko declared that His Holiness Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia of Georgia supports the OCU, a metropolitan of the Georgian Church reported in June 2018, following a session of the Holy Synod, that Pat. Ilia “disagrees with the initiative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate concerning Ukraine, as he recognizes only the legitimate Church headed by Metropolitan Onuphry.”

However, Pat. Ilia and other Georgian bishops have been under heavy pressure since then from Constantinople and the U.S. government. The head of the Patriarchate’s press service spoke about this pressure already in January 2019.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Pat. Ilia in November, where the main topic of discussion was the recognition of the OCU. Pompeo later admitted that he was personally involved in pressuring Churches to recognize the schismatics.

At the same time, schismatic propaganda has been heavily circulated in Georgia, both in print and online, including a poorly-argued apologetic published by Pantocrator Monastery on Mt. Athos, which was the first to succumb to Constantinople pressure and concelebrate with OCU schismatics.

The propagandists play on ethnic enmities, slandering bishops who support the canonical Ukrainian Church as being motivated by “pro-Russian” sympathies.

However, while the OCU and its supporters in Georgia appeal to nationalistic pride, the Georgian bishops who support the Church speak of matters of the faith. Metropolitan Nikoloz of Akhalkalaki, Kumurdo and Kari has said they cannot concelebrate with the anathematized and unordained bishops of the OCU. He also objects to Constantinople’s claim to the privilege of interfering in every Local Church.

Criticizing the methodology of Pat. Bartholomew, His Eminence Metropolitan John of Rustavi stated that, “The unity of the Orthodox Church is based not on the sole, Papist principle, but on conciliarity, which is reflected in the Nicene Creed.”

“Therefore, we are guided by the principles of law and economia, so that the spirit of schism would not reign among us,” he added.

His Eminence Metropolitan Andria of Gori has also noted that, while the Ukrainian people have the right to petition for autocephaly, the request has to come from the fullness of the Church, and it must be granted in the canonical manner.

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