Visit of the Venerable Primate of the Alexandrian Church to the Patriarchate of Georgia

On 1st August 2008, His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa officiated at the Divine Liturgy which was conducted by the Great Ecclesiarch of the Throne, Archim. Isidore Salakos.

Accompanied by His Beatitude Ilia II, Patriarch of the Georgia Church, His Beatitude then visited His Excellency Prime Minister Vladimir Goyrgnidze at the Prime Ministerial Mansion in Tbilisi .

His Excellency welcomed the two Patriarchs with respect and emotion and led them into the Meeting Hall of the Prime Ministerial Council, where he addressed the Alexandrian Primate, saying: “Your Beatitude, we joyfully welcome you to Georgia . I wish to emphasize that your visit is very significant for us, as we are going through difficult times. I know that you visited Georgia 22 years ago. You will have noted the different Georgia from that time.

He country has progressed, it is constantly developing, and is making efforts to take its place in the European Community, as a country of great history which is trying to stand with dignity against its history. We are trying to make use of all the possibilities our country has to offer and we understand the responsibility which we have as leader, because we are in a strategic geopolitical position and there are many problems. We believe that with the assistance of the European nations, we will be able to solve them. We are optimistic. As you will note, an enormous programme is developing around the restoration of our cultural heritage and the Church is our greatest collaborator and we always respect this. We ask for your blessing on all that is being undertaken in Georgia today”.

In his reply, His Beatitude said: “I express my joy for the welcome and hosting. I wish to confess from my heart that these days I am experiencing two great and wondrous blessings from God. This year you celebrate 30 years of Patriarchal service of Patriarch Ilia II, who is a man of love and wisdom and is the current symbol of Georgia . God has granted me to come here after 22 years, to celebrate his Jubilee. The second wondrous fact is that I find Georgia reborn, being governed by young, dynamic people, who are willing and have all the abilities to positively change the future of the country. I bless you from the depths of my soul and I believe that your desires for Georgia are desires blessed by God and your holy Patriarch. I believe that they will be realized”.

His Beatitude Ilia then spoke and said: “ Your Excellency Mr. Prime Minister, the Patriarch of Alexandria comes from a place where all the great Theological and philosophical problems were raised both before and after Christianity. Many Alexandrian patriarchs played a very significant role in the solution of these theological and philosophical questions and the Church, in admiring the wisdom of these holy Patriarchs, gave them the title of Thirteenth of the Apostles. We believe that every Patriarch of Alexandria is a bearer of this blessing. This is why we deem the visit to our country and our Church of His Beatitude to be very significant……These times are very difficult for us. Great countries are attempting in many ways to dominate us. The countries which are able to maintain their identity will never be conquered. Our identity is our faith, our culture, our church. We pray daily that we lose none of this and we ask the blessing of the Patriarch of Alexandria on all of this”.

His Excellency spoke again, saying: “I, together with His Beatitude our Patriarch, believe that at a time of globalization, the countries which have a history will not be lost. And in our history, the Church has a particular role. She is with us and we with her”. His Beatitude thanked him and gave him a silver tray of the Evangelist Mark.

On the evening of the same day, the ve (according to the local typikon) of the feast of the Georgian Primate, the two Primates together with the Members of the Holy Sunod and the clergy of the Church of Georgia, as well as the members of the entourage of His Beatitude, con-celebrated Great Vespers for the Feast of St Elias in the Holy Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Tbilisi, which was full of the faithful. The two Patriarchs together blessed the people, who showed their respect and deep emotion when the two Primates departed.

On 2nd August 2008 (20th July according to the local typikon), in great ecclesiastical splendour, the two Venerable Primates of Alexandria and Georgia concelebrated in the packed Cathedral, known as the Church of the Holy Cross, where the sheep-skin cloth of the Prophet Elijah is treasured.

Before the end of the Divine Liturgy, in which the Members of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Georgia participated, as did His Eminence Gregory of Cameroon and His Grace Damaskinos of Ghana, His Beatitude Theodoros II, addressed His Beatitude Ilia II, who was celebrating his name day, and spoke of the multifaceted work which he has completed during his thirty year tenure as Patriarch and awarded him the highest honour of the Alexandrian Patriarchate, the Great Cross of St Mark, together with Hierarchal pectoral crosses.

His Beatitude Ilia, thanked His Beatitude for the great honour, which he defined as an honour for the Georgian people. He emphaised the great significance of the visit of His Beatitude Theodoros II to the Church of Georgia, emphasizing especially that the "local Church of Iberia will always be dynamically present in the great Orthodox family of the world, keeping the tradition of the holy Fathers of our faith, from which it will never stray. We are all one Apostolic Church , which received its spiritual heritage from the Apostles Andrew, Simon the Canaanite, Matthias and Thaddeus... Your presence also signifies that the relations between the two Church have never been severed and today, you bring to us from Egypt , the blessings of the holy Alexandrian Patriarchs, the Great Theologians, the God-inspired Catechists and Ascetics of the desert, whose living continuation you are. You brought us peace and for this we thank you". He than gave His Beatitude an icon of St Nicholas of traditional Georgian art. An official festival lunch followed.

On the evening of the same day, the Venerable Primate of the Throe of St mark met the Members of the SAE council of the area in Tbilisi , with whom he discussed the situation and problems of the Greek Communities of Georgia.

That night, the two Primates, together with His Excellency the President of Georgia, Mr. Mihail Saaksvili, and the Chairman of the Parliament Mr. David Bakradze, attended a concert hosted at the Tbilisi Opera in honour of His Beatitude.