Head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Ilia II, said on Wednesday that priests behaved “impolitely” during the developments on May 17 in downtown Tbilisi when Orthodox clergy-led crowd disrupted attempted anti-homophobia rally.
“What happened on May 17 is very regrettable,” Patriarch Ilia II said in the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Tbilisi. “Ideas, which [gay rights activists] wanted to instill there, are completely unacceptable in Georgia.”
“But it is also very regrettable that the Georgian clergy was acting impolitely and I want to call on everyone for calm,” he added.
Later on May 22 the Georgian Patriarchate also released a written statement, expressing “regret” over the May 17 developments and saying that the Church would take “appropriate measure” against those clerics, who were involved in the violence.
The statement says that an attempt to hold the gay rights rally in downtown Tbilisi “was of provocative nature.”
“In the country, where the absolute majority of the population is follower of Christianity… and of other traditional religions, such rallies are perceived by the population as propaganda of homosexuality, which causes their fair protest,” the statement reads.
It says that venue of the intended rally, outside the former parliamentary building on Tbilisi’s main thoroughfare Rustaveli Avenue, was “an additional irritating and provocative factor.” It described the venue as having “strong emotional ties” to Georgia’s “historical memory and traditions.”
“The country cannot tolerate legalization of a sin. The Church loves a human being and just because of this love it fights against sin for the salvation of soul. Despite of that, there is no excuse for violence,” the Patriarchate’s statement reads.
“We unequivocally distance ourselves from the aggressive actions from the part of demonstrators, which were not within either legal or religious norms.”
“It is regrettable that clerics were also involved in these processes. These separate individuals damaged the entire Church. Patriarchate will examine their actions and we will too take appropriate measures.”
“It should also be noted that if not the efforts of large part of clergy and brave actions of police employees, consequences would have been much more severe,” the statement reads.