Ilia II of Georgia

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ილია II
Ilia II
His Holiness and Beatitude, Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, the Archbishop of Mtskheta-Tbilisi and Metropolitan bishop of Bichvinta and Tskhum-Abkhazia
Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II.jpg
Church Georgian Orthodox Church
Installed December 25, 1977
Term ended Incumbent
Predecessor David V
Personal details
Birth name Irakli Ghudushauri-Shiolashvili (ირაკლი ღუდუშაური-შიოლაშვილი)
Born (1933-01-04) 4 January 1933 (age 81)
Vladikavkaz, Russia
Denomination Eastern Orthodox Church
Occupation Catholicos-Patriarch
Profession Theologian
Alma mater Moscow clerical seminary
Signature {{{signature_alt}}}

Ilia II (Georgian: ილია II) also transliterated as Ilya or Elijah (born January 4, 1933) is the current Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia and the spiritual leader of the Georgian Orthodox Church. He is officially styled as Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, the Archbishop of Mtskheta-Tbilisi and Metropolitan bishop of Abkhazia and Bichvinta, His Holiness and Beatitude Ilia II.[1]

Biography[edit]

Ilia II was born as Irakli Ghudushauri-Shiolashvili (Georgian: ირაკლი ღუდუშაური-შიოლაშვილი) in Vladikavkaz, Russia's North Ossetia. He is a descendant of the influential eastern Georgian mountainous clan with family ties with the former royal dynasty of the Bagrationi.

He graduated from the Moscow clerical seminary and was ordained a hierodeacon in 1957 and hieromonk in 1959; he graduated from the Moscow clerical academy in 1960 and returned to Georgia, where he was assigned to the Batumi Cathedral Church as a priest. In 1961, he was promoted to hegumen and later to archimandrite. On August 26, 1963, he was chosen to be the bishop of Batumi and Shemokmedi and appointed a patriarchal vicar. From 1963 to 1972 he was also the first rector of the Mtskheta Theological Seminary - the only clerical school in Georgia at that time.

In 1967, he was consecrated as the bishop of Tskhumi and Abkhazeti and elevated to the rank of metropolitan in 1969. After the death of the controversial Patriarch David V, he was elected the new Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgia on December 25, 1977.

The new patriarch began a course of reforms, enabling the Georgian Orthodox Church, once suppressed by the Soviet ideology, largely regain its former influence and prestige by the late 1980s. In 1988 there were 180 priests, 40 monks, and 15 nuns for the faithful, who were variously estimated as being from one to three million. There were 200 churches, one seminary, three convents, and four monasteries. During the last years of the Soviet Union, he was actively involved in Georgia's social life.

The patriarch joined the people demonstrating in Tbilisi against the Soviet rule on April 9, 1989, and fruitlessly urged the protesters to withdraw to the nearby Kashueti Church to avoid the bloodshed. This peaceful demonstration was dispersed by the Soviet troops, leaving behind 22 dead and hundreds injured. During the civil war in Georgia in the 1990s, he called the rival parties to find a peaceful solution to the crisis.

From 1978 to 1983, Ilia II was Co-President of the World Council of Churches (WCC), an ecumenical organization the Georgian Orthodox Church had joined with other Soviet churches in 1962. In May 1997, the Holy Synod of the Georgian Orthodox Church announced its withdrawal from the WCC.

Awards and recognition[edit]

As patriarch, he has received the highest Church awards from the Patriarchs of the Orthodox Churches of Antioch, Jerusalem, Alexandria, Russia, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and almost all other Orthodox Churches.

As a productive theologian and church historian, he was conferred an Honorary Doctorate of Theology from St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in New York (1986), the Academy of Sciences in Crete (1997) and the St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania (1998).

Ilia II is an Honorary Academician of the Georgian Academy of Sciences (2003) and Hon. Fellow of the American School of Genealogy, Heraldry and Documentary Sciences. In February 2008, his grace was awarded the David Guramishvili Prize

Views on constitutional monarchy[edit]

Ilia II is known as a proponent of a constitutional monarchy as a form of government for Georgia. On October 7, 2007, Ilia II he publicly called, in his sermon, to consider establishing a constitutional monarchy under the Bagrationi dynasty which had been dispossessed by the Russian Empire of the Georgian crown early in the 19th century.[2] The statement coincided with the rising confrontation between the government of President Mikheil Saakashvili and the opposition, many members of which welcomed the patriarch's proposal.[3]

Ilia II and Russia[edit]

During the August 2008 Russian-Georgian war, Ilia II appealed to the Russian political leadership and the church, expressing concerns that “the Orthodox Russians were bombing Orthodox Georgians," and dismissing the Russian accusations of Georgia’s “genocide” in South Ossetia as “pure lie”[citation needed]. He also made a pastoral visit, bringing food and aid, to the Russian-occupied central Georgian city of Gori and the surrounding villages which were at the verge of humanitarian catastrophe[citation needed]. He also helped retrieve bodies of deceased Georgian soldiers and civilians.[4][5] Ilia II also blessed the September 1, 2008 “Stop Russia” demonstrations in which tens of thousands organized human chains across Georgia.[6]

In December 2008, Ilia II visited Moscow to pay a final farewell to Russia’s late Patriarch Alexy II. On December 9, 2008, he met Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev, which was the first high-level official contact between the two countries since the August war.[7] Later, Ilia II announced that he had some “positive agreements” with Medvedev which needed “careful and diplomatic” follow-up by the politicians.[8]

Initiative to revive Georgia's declining birth rate[edit]

In the late 2007, concerned with Georgia's declining birth rate, Ilia II offered to personally baptize any child born to a family that already has at least two children, as long as the new child was to be born after his announcement. He conducts mass baptism ceremonies four times a year. According to the church official, the patriarch's initiative spurred a national baby boom, because being baptized by the Patriarch is a considerable honor among adherents of the Georgian Orthodox Church.[9]

Currently Ilia II has more than 19,000 godchildren.[10]

Approval ratings[edit]

Ilia II is the most trusted man in Georgia and has highest positive favorability rating which is close to 95%.[11][12]

Comments about homosexuality[edit]

Ilia II urged the Georgian authorities not to allow a gay rights rally being held in Tbilisi on 17 May 2013 to mark the International Day Against Homophobia to go ahead. He stated that the rally was a "violation of the majority's rights" and "an insult" to the Georgian nation. He described homosexuality as a disease and compared it to drug addiction. Following the comments thousands of Georgians took to the streets of Tbilisi to protest the gay rights rally. Due to escalating violence against the gay activists the rally had to be abandoned and the activists driven in a bus to safety by the police.[13]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Orthodox Church titles
Preceded by
David V
Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia
1977–
Succeeded by
incumbent