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GEORGIA: Concordat to Face Constitutional Challenge by True Orthodox

Georgia’s Constitutional Court has given a date to the True Orthodox Church where their complaint against the constitutional agreement between the Georgian Orthodox Patriarchate and the state will be addressed. Talking to Keston News Service, Father Gela Aroshvilli said, “The concordat has been designed to deprive us of our constitutional rights. Now we can’t do anything without taking permission from the Patriarchate”.

19th November will be the deciding date on the constitutionality of the agreement between the State and Georgian Orthodox Patriarchate. While talking to Keston News Service on 12 November, Father Gela Aroshvilli voiced his concerns on the concordat claiming that now his church can’t preach, serve the liturgy or build churches without receiving prior approval from the Patriarchate.

According to the sources concordat was signed in Mtskheta by President Eduard Shevardnadze and Patriarch Ilya. It was approved on 17th October by the Holy Synod of the customary Church and was sanctioned on 22nd October by the parliament. Since the agreement was unaccepted by masses, the lawyers belonging to the legal aid group, in accordance to Article 42 lodged a complaint against it. It was signed by Father Zurab Aroshvili and the matter was brought to the court on 4 November.  
The True Orthodox Church has criticized the Article 6 (part 6) of the agreement which states that, “With the consent of the Orthodox Patriarchate, the state will issue licenses for distribution and production of worship articles along with the use of official terminology of Church”.

The appendix attached to the agreement details the worship items and the definition of terminology. The list of items is broad. It includes theological-liturgical and spiritual-educational literature, monasteries, churches and crockery for soil and holy water.  
Aleksandr Kuliashvili, the lawyer representing the Orthodox Church said that the Article 42 indicates that Article 6 part 6 is a dominant violation of Article 19. Keston reports that Father Gela Aroshvili claims to take the case to Strasburg in European Court of Human Rights if the Constitutional Court doesn’t give rights to the Church. Georgia’s True Orthodox Church is under the Jurisdiction of Metropolitan Ephraim. It doesn’t have any link with the known Father Vasili Mkalavishvili and rejects violence as a whole.

The complaint lodged by True Orthodox has made the Constitutional Court attentive of the violations on part of the Church’s rights. The reactions in the form of mob destruction were reported on 6 October. According to the lawyers Article 42 has taken up the case and will look into the matter to bring in justice. Kuliashvili made the concluding comment on the case that “there is a dire need of appropriate agencies to file the criminal case. Strangely, it is not done as yet”..