On 10 June 2016, the regular plenary session of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Georgia was held at the Patriarchate of Georgia. The Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II acted as the Chairman of the session. Metropolitan Shio (Mujiri) of Senaki and Chkhorotsku was appointed Secretary of the session. TheCatholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II gave an opening speech in which he greeted the members of the Holy Synod and spoke about the difficulty of the situation around the convening of the Holy and Great Council; further, the floor was given to the representative of the Church of Georgia, Metropolitan Andrew (Gvazava) of Gori and Ateni.
Metropolitan Andrewspoke about the events which have unfoldedafter the regular plenary session held on the 25thof May of the current year, and declared thatthe major purpose of the convening of the coming Council is to manifest before the world the unity of the Orthodox people and the expression of the unanimous position of the Orthodox Church towards various issues of the day. However, today, with a heavy heart, we are obliged to say that this objective is unattainable because of the following reasons:
1. Despite several attempts, the Church of Antioch and the Church of Jerusalem fail to re-establish the Eucharistic communion with each other which we hoped for up to the latest period;
2. In addition to the aforementioned reason, there are some other serious problems in relation to the documents on the agenda of the Council, due to which the Church of Antioch alsorefused to participate in the Council.
3. The Church of Antioch has not signed the Decree of the Primates of the Churches of 2016 which determined the convocation of the Holy and Great Council, its date, place and list of issues of the agenda.Neither has she signed the regulations of the work of the Holy and Great Council which excludes the ratification of the document as valid.
4. The Church of Bulgaria refused to participate in the Council and presented her position in relation to a number of issues;
5. The Church of Serbia also considers it fraught with problems to participate in the Council and requests it to be postponed in order tobetter prepare for it.
6. Despite the reiterated demand of the Church of Georgia to publicise the draft documents for the agenda of the Council, they were only publicised after the last assembly of the primates of the churches, since the February of the current year. As a result of the study of these texts by the Holy Synods, clergy, theologians and the faithful people of the local churches, several dogmatic, canonical and terminological errors were revealed.
7. Despite the decree of the primates of the churches issued in 2014 and despite the clear demand of article 8 of the regulations of the Holy and Great Council that only unanimously determined questions must be discussed at the Council, its agenda has the document: “On Marriage”, which our delegation has not signed owing to dogmatic errors; neither was this text signed by the Church of Antioch.
8. The text: “The Attitude of the Orthodox Church towards the Rest of the World” was from the outset unacceptable for the Church of Georgia and was only signed by our delegation when the following statement was added to it: ““The Church of Georgia and the Church of Bulgaria left the World Council of the Churches; the first of them left it in 1997 and the latter – in 1998 since they have their own opinions on the activity of the World Council of the Churches which is why they do not participate in the events of the mentioned Council and other inter-Christian organisations.”On the 25th of May of the current year the Holy Synod of Georgia established that the mentioned document contains profound ecclesiological and terminological errors and requires serious alterations; and if these alterations are not made, the Church of Georgia will not sign the text.
9. The document “The Mission of the Orthodox Church in the Contemporary World” also requires certain alterations.
10. It should be underscored that the agenda of the Council, the time assigned for the discourse on the issues, also vagueness of the proceedings does not allow a thorough discussion on every article of the issues in order to make substantive alterations in them during the proceedings of the Holy and Great Council.
11. The General Orthodox Secretariat, created for the preparation for the Holy and Great Council,
is non-functional as it is not given the opportunity to take decisions. The Church of Georgia along with other Churches have several times declared their protest about it.
It is a well-known fact that the actions of the Church of Georgia have been very constructive in the preparation for the Holy and Great Council. To help convene it in its appointed time, at the assembly of the primates of the Churches in the January of 2016, we removed the issue of “Diptychs” which is a question of paramount importance to us (since the place of the succession of the Church of Georgia would conclusively be determinedby it), and reserved it for a later discussion; we also removed the issue of evaluation of dialogues held with other denominations.
But it happened so that our concession, on account of which we have been criticized within our Church, turned out to be futile as the purpose of the Council and its core principlesacknowledged by everybody still have not been observed.
His Holiness suggested the other hierarchs that they should express their opinions on the aforementioned. The following is the procedure of the discourse.
The hierarchs who gave speeches were:
Metropolitan Job (Akiashvili) of Mrovi and Urbnisi, Metropolitan Dimitri (Shiolashvili) of Batumi and Kobuleti, MetropolitanNichoas (Pachuashvili) of Akhalkalaki and Kumurdo, MetropolitanGerasim (Sharashenidze) of Zugdidi and Tsaishi, Metropolitan Peter (Tsaava) of Chkhondidi, MetropolitanIoane (Gamrekeli) of Rustavi, Metropolitan Gregory (Berbichashvili) of Poti and Khobi, Bishop Jacob (Iakobashvili) of Bodbe, Bishop Damian (Khupunia) of Samtavisi and Kaspi, Metropolitan Theodor (Chuadze) of Akhaltsikhe and Tao-Klarjeti, Archbishop Spiridon (Abuladze) of Skhalta, Metropolitan AbbaDavid (Makharadze)of Alaverdi, Metropolitan Anton (Bulukhia) of Vaniand Baghdati, Metropolitan Daniel (Datuashvili) of Sachkhere and Chiatura, MetropolitanSaba (Gigiberia) of Khoni and Samtredia, Bishop Saba (Intskirveli) of North America and Canada.
Despite controversial opinions, the main position was one – the existing problems can be solved by actively working at them. That is why, like other Churches, we also demand that the date of the Council should be postponed until the time when unity will be attained. Although, the date of the Council was determined at the assembly in Chambesy as 17-26 June 2016, we all are facing today the fact that unity is not achieved. And, since the purpose of the Council precisely was and still is the manifestation of unity within Orthodoxy, we consider it inexpedient to hold it in the form as it is now.
The Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia put to the votethe question of the participation of the Church of Georgia in the Holy and Great Council.
The Holy Synod unanimously voted for:
1. The delegation of the Church of Georgia will not participate in the Holy and Great Council which is planned to be held in Crete during 17-26 June of the current year;
2. The decree of the Holy Synod,held on the 10th of June 2016, be sent to all the local Churches.