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What should be the Orthodox Church in Abkhazia?

In recent months, in Abkhazia there is a discussion of the role and place of the Orthodox Church in the life of the Republic, about the conditions in which it functions. The foreign political circumstances can't help influencing the discussion of the issues of many citizens concern of Abkhazia. The director of the Centre for Strategic Studies Oleg Damenia came out with a story about a complex set of problems and new approaches to their solution in Sukhumi:

- The situation around the Orthodox Church in Abkhazia recently deteriorated again. The basis for this was the agreement reached at the last Moscow meeting between the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kirill and Catholicos of all Georgia Ilia II.

During this meeting, its participants, as was expected, confirmed once again that Abkhazia, as South Ossetia, is considered as the part of the canonical territory of the Georgian Orthodox Church. According to many analysts, it seems probable that the Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Georgian Orthodox Church may agree on the so-called dual (Georgian-Russian) form of management of the Orthodox Church in Abkhazia. All it can alarm the public of Abkhazia.

The declarations of the Public chamber of the Republic of Abkhazia and the political organization of the Forum of National Unity became an expression of this alarm. But it should not be restricted by one acceptance of applications for all their importance, apparently. The question is too delicate, complex and essentially fateful. It requires a special study.

But one thing is certain with all the complexity and delicacy disturbing issue: in church terms, Abkhazia was and continues to remain in a legal vacuum after the war. In these conditions it is difficult to speak about the presence of canonically functioning of the Institute of the Church.

The public of Abkhazia does not know the legal provisions of the currently effective Pitsunda-Sukhumi eparchy except the oral assurances of priest Vissarion Aplia. Many of us, believing the words of the priest Vissarion Aplia, thought that Pitsunda-Sukhumi eparchy left the Georgian Orthodox Church after the war.

But is it? Alas, nobody while see the legal documents confirming the output from the composition of the eparchy of the Georgian Orthodox Church. Moreover, the community does not know whether the priest Vissarion Aplia has the sale of honour, which proves the fact that he is not a cleric of the Georgian Orthodox Church or carry the service in the eparchy as a cleric of the Georgian Orthodox Church? At the present time he is the acting, but it is difficult to understand whose responsibilities and how many still it is necessary to fulfil. Thus the eparchy remains without the Bishop and it activity is very opaque, that is unpopular with the public.

The priest Vissarion Aplia assures the public in his public speeches that he recreates the Abkhazian Orthodox Autocephalous Church, relying on the support of the Russian Orthodox Church. But that he says about the support from the Russian Orthodox Church and that Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Illarion say in this connection, exclude each other. They come from the Church law, and we have no right to expect them to recognition of the independence of the Abkhazian Church. Independent Orthodox Church in Abkhazia can be restored only on the canonical basis.

The public statements of Vissarion Aplia in the address of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, his opposition to the Moscow Patriarchate look more than incorrectly. It does honour not only to him. Respectful attitude to the Russian Orthodox Church cannot serve as a basis for the Abkhazian society as the priest Vissarion Aplia wants, for the negative attitude to Constantinople, which is the mother Church of all the local churches of the Orthodox world.

In this regard the activities of the recently established the Holy Metropolis of Abkhazia look favourably. Declaring their independence from Georgian Orthodox Church and adopting a number of basic law documents, it appealed to the Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and senior priests of local Orthodox churches to recognize its independence. However, it is not recognized, not even registered in the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Abkhazia, but it is not so important. The choice of organizing Church life and problems solving of its legal status in canonical way seems me more important. The young priests are based primarily on the opinion and spiritual needs of the laity.

The intellectual potential of young Abkhazian priests, their spiritual perfection inspires special optimism which became a noticeable phenomenon in the cultural life of our society. Their defamation as dissenters became offensive. However, there is nothing wrong in the indictment of young Abkhazian priests in secessionism. They are actually the dissenters, as began to create the Holy Metropolis of Abkhazia, independent from the Georgian Church. Is such accusation of the young priests as indirect confirmation of the fact that their opponents continue to think of themselves in the bosom of the Georgian Church? Is the priest Vissarion Aplia dissenter, who, being a clergyman of the Georgian Orthodox Church, assures us that are already out of the Georgian Church?

Unfortunately, the differences, formed among Abkhazian priests became a serious barrier on the way of solving the existing problems. Meanwhile it is impossible to delay the decision of the Church. The point is that using a legal vacuum, which I mentioned above, it began to wield a variety of sectarian communities, activities of which are not always meets the interests of our national security. Under the pretext of the clergy, the people with an unknown past often appear more and more. Moreover, the circles, pursuing not the Church interests began to encroach the Church property, the Orthodox values and shrines of Abkhazia.

Some of our priests began to use a legal vacuum, who single-handedly trying to decide the fate of the Abkhazian Church and take decisions on the basis of oral agreements with Church officials from the outside, far from our reality. However, even laymen don't tell others about the people who are valid Depository and bearer of Orthodox values and shrines. Don’t remind you of the recent times, when the Abkhazian people intentionally had estranged from Christian culture? Fortunately, today, our Parliament has passed a law that defines the relationship of the people to the Orthodox shrines and values which are the common heritage of the spiritual life of modern Abkhazia.
Deficiency of a full Church life becomes all the more acute in our society today. Our attempts to overcome the split between priests, constantly disturbing the society, did not succeed. Meanwhile, without overcoming this split, it is hardly possible to achieve a real shift in the decision of the standing here the problems among exhortations and appeals. Apparently, it is the time to ask our people, how he would like to see the legal status of the Orthodox Church in Abkhazia.

It is important to beware of possible showdown and fruitless conversations. The essence of the Church issue, discussed in society today, is not confined to the relationship between Abkhazian priests. In this context, there should not be the matter about who is guilty and who is not. It concerns, first of all, about what can and should be Orthodox Church in the life of modern Abkhazia.

Viewed : 1442   Commented: 2

Author: Vladimir Kuzmenkin

Publication date : 24 June 2013 23:22

Source: The world and we

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