Pro-Russian bishop bars Catholics for from church

12 დეკ 202310:29
3 წუთის საკითხავი
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Bishop Ioane of the Georgian Orthodox Church, known for his anti-Western and pro-Russian views, banned Georgian Catholics from praying in the Catholic Church in Kutaisi on December 8th. Bishop Ioane's decision has reignited debate over the fate of several former Georgian Catholic churches, which the Georgian Orthodox Church refuses to return.

Under an agreement between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, the local Catholic community was allowed to pray in the church on December 8 each year, the Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception.

However, Bishop Ioane said the agreement was no longer valid.

The Catholic Church of Kutaisi was built in the early 19th century on land donated to the Catholic community by King Solomon II of Imereti.

The church had become an important cultural center for the Georgian Catholic community. It was here that the Georgian composer, author of foundational operas, and himself Catholic, Zakaria Paliashvili sang in the choir and learned to play the organ.

After the Soviet-Russian invasion, the church was seized by the Bolsheviks and used as a concert hall. The Church was transferred to the Georgian Orthodox Church in mid 1980s whose representatives dismantled and discarded its historic organ.

Bishop Ioane has also made a name for himself with radial pro-Russian and anti-Western views and support for Alt-Info, the radical Kremlin and Georgian Dream-linked violent extremist group. Ioane has also explicitly justified Alt-Info's violent attacks, including the beating of 55 journalists on 5 July 2021, with one journalist, TV Pirveli cameraman Lekso Lashkarava, dying days later.

"The EU will only accept Georgia if it agrees to hold regular gay prides," he said in 2022, echoing one of the key narratives of Russian propaganda.

"Where did atheism come from? - From Europe. Fascism? - From Europe, world wars? - From Europe. Which European values are we talking about? Explain what they mean. Excuse me, the moral decay that is legalized in Europe today?" he also said.

In 2020, Bishop Ioane made headlines with anti-Semitic remarks, calling Jews "Jesus' accusers", also reflecting the conspiracy of world domination by Jews. He also referred to Jews as "infidels".

The Israeli ambassador at the time condemned the anti-Semitic remarks and called on the Georgian government to respond publicly to the conspiracy theories and hatred spread by Bishop Ioane.

Some Georgian politicians, like Giorgi Noniashvili of European Georgia, have called for the restitution of property for the Georgian Catholic community.

In July 2022, the Vatican's Cardinal Pietro Parolin sent a letter to the Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili appealing to the Georgian government to return several churches currently used by the Georgian Orthodox Church to the Georgian Catholic community. The letter specifically mentioned the churches of Gori, Kutaisi, Batumi, Ude, Ivlita, and Buzmareti, originally built by Georgian Catholics, confiscated by the Soviet regime, and used by the Orthodox Church after the collapse of communism.

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