Mtskheta, Georgia, July 19, 2021
Members of the radical liberal opposition party in Georgia and the nationalist media were outraged last week to learn that the Divine Liturgy had been served in “Russian” in the famous Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in Mtskheta.
Video from the service was initially spread by World Ecclesiastical News (which supports the Patriarchate of Constantinople and its schismatic organization in Ukraine), claiming the service was celebrated in Russian, with a Russian choir chanting.
Unfortunately, however, the outraged journalists didn’t realize that parts of the Liturgy were in fact celebrated in Church Slavonic, which is not the modern Russian language, but is the common inheritance of all the Slavic-speaking Churches. Moreover, they didn’t realize that the clergy, choir, and pilgrims were in fact Ukrainians, not Russians.
This comes just two weeks after Georgian and international media claimed that those who took a stand for traditional family values and protested against the LGBTQ march in Tbilisi earlier in the month must have been “Putinists” and “pro-Russians.”
“It is insulting to perform Russian-language services and it’s a provocative act against the national feelings of the Georgian people,” believes World Ecclesiastical News, referring to the fact that it was in Svetitskhoveli that the restoration of the autocephaly of the Georgian Patriarchate was proclaimed in 1917 after it was abolished by the Russian Empire in 1811, and to territorial tensions that occasionally arise between the Georgian and Russian Churches.
One prominent Georgian journalist, Tamara Chergoleishvili even demanded that law enforcement interrogate His Holiness Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia about the service, according to the Union of Orthodox Journalists.
“We think that the Georgian Patriarchate is obliged to give a proper explanation of this fact before the Georgian nation… We demand more clarification as to who gave the blessing to celebrate the Liturgy in Russian in Svetitskhovel?!” World Ecclesiastical News exclaims.
The Church quickly responded, gently correcting the media’s ignorance:
We clarify that a group of clergy has come to Georgia on pilgrimage from Ukraine. They asked for permission to serve in Svetitskhoveli. Today, together with the Georgian clergy, a joint service was held in Georgian and Church Slavonic. As you know, in Ukraine, the services are held in Church Slavonic. In general, it is a common practice in the Church to allow guests to celebrate part of the service in their own language.
Watch the offending video below: