Abkhazian Orthodox Church
|Abkhazian Orthodox Church
Абхазская Православная церковь
Abkhazian church standard
|Independence||15 September 2009|
The Abkhazian Orthodox Church (Russian: Абхазская Православная церковь) is an Eastern Orthodox church outside the official Eastern Orthodox ecclesiastical hierarchy. It came into existence when the Sukhumi-Abkhazian Eparchy declared on 15 September 2009 that it no longer considered itself part of the Georgian Orthodox Church and that it was "re-establishing the Catholicate of Abkhazia disbanded in 1795".
The Abkhazian Orthodox church is organised into two eparchies, one in Pitsunda and one in Sukhumi. The Pitsunda Cathedral is the church's chief cathedral. The church is currently led by priest Vissarion Aplaa. It has nine parishes and one monastery, at Kaman.
The Abkhazian Orthodox Church considers itself to be the continuation of the Catholicate of Abkhazia. The Catholicate of Abkhazia was disbanded in 1814, when all local dioceses were taken over by the Russian Orthodox Church. They then became part of the Georgian Orthodox Church following the fall of Tsar Nicholas II in 1917.
The Abkhazian orthodox dioceses fall under the canonically recognized territory of the Georgian Orthodox Church as Sukhumi-Abkhazian eparchy. After the 1992-1993 war in Abkhazia, ethnically Georgian priests had to flee Abkhazia and the Georgian Orthodox church effectively lost control of Abkhazian church affairs. The last Georgian monks and nuns, based in the upper Kodori Valley, were expelled early in 2009 after they resisted pressure from the Abkhaz authorities to sever allegiance to the Georgian church.
The ethnically Abkhaz Vissarion Aplaa was the only remaining priest after the early 1990s war and he became acting head of the Sukhumi-Abkhazian eparchy. In the following years, recently consecrated clerics from the neighbouring Russian Maykop Eparchy arrived in Abkhazia. The new priests came into conflict with Vissarion, but through the mediation of Russian church officials, the two sides managed to reach a power-sharing agreement in Maikop in 2005. Under the agreement, the Eparchy would thenceforth have co-chairs and be named the Abkhazian Eparchy with undefined canonical status, to stress its separation from the Georgian Orthodox Church. The agreement did not hold however, when Priest Vissarion refused to share the leadership and continued to sign documents using the old name of the Eparchy.
On 15 September 2009 the leadership of the Sukhumi-Abkhazian Eparchy declared that it no longer considered itself part of the Georgian Orthodox Church, that it was re-establishing the Catholicate of Abkhazia, and that it would henceforth be known as the Abkhazian Orthodox Church. Its leader Aplia asked the Russian and Georgian churches to recognize the "Abkhazian Orthodox Church". A spokesman for the Georgian patriarchate said the decision to separate from the Georgian Orthodox Church was taken by a "group of impostors", while the Russian Orthodox Church confirmed that it continued to view Abkhazia as the canonical territory of the Georgian Church.
On 9 February 2011, the Abkhazian government transferred 38 churches, cathedrals and monasteries perpetually into the care of the Abkhazian Orthodox Church.
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- Сухумо-Абхазская епархия переименована в Абхазскую Православную церковь с Сухумским и Пицундским патриархатами (in Russian). Администрация Президента Республики Абхазия. 2009-09-16. Retrieved 2009-09-26.
- Абхазская православная церковь заявила о своей самостоятельности (in Russian). Caucasian Knot. 2009-09-16. Retrieved 2009-09-26.
- Kuchuberia, Anzhela (17 November 2009). Абхазская православная церковь обратилась к духовенству Грузии с братским посланием (in Russian). Caucasian Knot. Retrieved 29 November 2009.
- Abkhazia: "We'll kick out anyone". Forum 18. 7 April 2009
- Вновь обострился конфликт внутри православной общины Абхазии. Blagovest.info May 15, 2006. Retrieved on June 26, 2007 (Russian)
- Georgian patriarchy refuses to recognize Abkhaz Orthodox Church. RIA Novosti. September 16, 2009
- Russian Orthodox Church ‘Respects’ Georgian Church Authority over Abkhazia, S.Ossetia. Civil Georgia. September 16, 2009
- Абхазской православной церкви переданы в безвозмездное бессрочное пользование 38 храмов и соборов.. Apsnypress (in Russian). 9 February 2011. Retrieved 25 February 2011.