Armenian, Georgian Church Leaders Reach Impasse

Karekin II and Ilia II in Georgia

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—The spiritual leaders of Armenia and Georgia have failed to reach any concrete agreements on disputes between their state-backed churches after nearly one week of negotiations held during Catholicos Karekin II’s visit to Georgia.

The supreme head of the Armenian Apostolic Church and Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II of the Georgian Orthodox Church publicly disagreed on the main sticking points as they wrapped up the talks late on Wednesday.

Karekin II began the trip last Friday in the hope of convincing Georgia’s political and religious leadership to grant an official status to the Georgia Diocese of the Armenian Church and return several churches in and outside Tbilisi to the latter. Karekin II’s office said after his weekend meeting with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili that the Georgian side agreed to register the diocese and pledged to preserve the churches “until their return to the diocese.”

However, no agreements or joint declarations were signed as a result. Speaking to journalists in Georgia’s Javakheti region mostly populated by ethnic Armenians, the two pontiffs said they failed to work out a mutually acceptable document. “I think that we are saying the same things but with different wordings,” said Ilia.

Ilia insisted that the Armenian Church should gain official recognition in Georgia only if the Georgian Church is granted the same status in Armenia. Karekin II countered that Armenia’s small ethnic Georgian community, numbering less than 1,000 people, never applied for such a status. He argued that Armenian law provides for the easy registration of religious minorities.

Contradicting Saakashvili’s assurances reportedly given to Karekin II, Ilia also stated that “Armenian churches will be repaired in case of the restoration of Georgian churches in Armenia.” “If Georgia restores Armenian churches, then Armenia must repair and preserve Georgian churches as well,” he said.

The elderly patriarch referred to several medieval and mostly abandoned churches located in Armenia’s northern Lori province. The area was for centuries controlled by Georgian kings through their Armenian vassals. Some of those noble families were members of the Georgian Church.

The Armenian Church disputes Georgian claims to these worship sites, saying that they were built and always used by Armenian adherents of the Greek Orthodox faith.

“Of course, restoration of historical monuments must be an obligation of the two states, but one must first of all ascertain their origin,” said Karekin II.

Asked by RFE/RL’s Armenian service whether the Georgian Church is ready to substantiate its claims with documentary evidence, Ilia replied, “Yes, we are ready.”

The Georgian Church proposed that the two sides form a joint commission of scholars and historians for that purpose. The proposal was not accepted by Karekin II.

“We replied that they should first present necessary facts as to what exactly the commission should investigate,” said the Armenian Catholicos. “An appropriate decision [on whether to set up such a body] would be made after that.”

Both religious leaders stressed that the two churches will continue to seek a negotiated solution to these disputes.


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  1. AR said:

    Thank you to the Catholicos for standing up to the conniving georgians.

  2. Hripsime said:

    I can not trust Georgian! More over they are tools in Turk’s hands!

  3. ARARADE Mer ne! said:

    Can someone explain why and how Saakashvili is still in power?

  4. Arman said:

    What unbelievable and outrageous behavior!!! You would expect the common Georgian to be as stubborn and thick headed as a mule……but a Church leader?!?!?!?!?…….. I must admit I am not surprised unfortunately. After losing Ossetia and Abkhazia, Georgians want to hold on to every inch, even if it’s not rightly theirs…….amateurs. Half of them have Turkish first names like Tengiz or Timuri anyway lol.

  5. Halo said:

    There is a reason that Georgians have a reputation as “Turks of the Caucasus”, and this article shows this concept very well.

    It is also no surprise that Georgia, despite not being landlocked, sides with Turkey and Azerbaijan instead of Armenia. Yet they “care” about Christianity? Typical hypocrisy, and a bunch of impostor Christians who hold their egos above God.

    I dream of the day Armenia and Armenians teach these wicked Georgians a lesson they would soon not forget.

  6. Stepan said:

    The bad news we have already seen for years with our “friends ” to the north. The good news is that our Catholicos is initiating a public campaign to assert our rights. At a minimum, this is a morale boost to our beleagured breathen living in Georgia. progress will be slow, but I applaud the leadership.

  7. MK said:

    Never trust a Georgian,history has shown and taught us never to do so,they are double faced conniving lot,I have no time for them.

  8. george said:

    Are there any Armenian Greek Orthodox (Chalcidonian) Christians around today ? Their history has never been explored as far as I know…..but I know that there were in the past some such Christians in Armenia and Georgia and perhaps in Russia too.

  9. Edward Demian said:

    What the hell. if these churches are abandoned, and there are only 1000 Georgians in Armenia, what is the fight about? I say let them have them. They will stay empty for another 1000 years. It is a matter of principle for them, and so we should let them have something, in return for a bonanza of Armenian churches in Georgia. I don’t want the Georgians repairing and remodeling Armenian churches. Because they would do more converting than repairing. And probably they would feel the same way. Much to do about nothing I say.

  10. Manvel said:

    If this type of short sighted behavior continues, Armenians and Georgians will become a minority in the Caucus Region. The Turks and Azeris are growing Economically, Militarily and Population. In 20 to 30 years both Armenia and Georgia will be easily overrun with Turks. We need to make the Georgians understand that if this bologne continues, Armenia and Georgia will continue to shrink and eventually lose their Independance. Think long term you short sighted Georgians !!!!