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Ruling Party, Opposition Clash over Demolished Church

Opposition lawmakers demanded on Monday that the ruling National Movement party clarify and find out who, or which state agency, ordered the demolition of a half-constructed Orthodox church in the Khelvachauri district of Adjara on May 18.

?We should know who did it. Was it done by a state agency or some unknown individuals? if it was done by a state agency, then by which one and who took the decision and on what level?? MP Kakha Kukava of the opposition Conservative Party said in Parliament on May 21.

But lawmakers from the ruling party denounced the opposition?s politicisation of the incident.

?The problem is really serous, but it will be solved only between the authorities and the church,? MP Giga Bokeria of the ruling party said.

Parliamentary Chairperson Nino Burjanadze said that the demolition of the church was an ?unpleasant fact? and a ?misunderstanding.?

?We all should try not to further raise tensions. We always try to find a common language with the [Orthodox] Church and we are now in intensive consultations with the patriarch [of the Orthodox Church, Illia II] to resolve this issue,? Burjanadze said.

MP Nino Kalandadze, also from the ruling party, again tried to shield central authorities from criticism by saying that the decision to demolish the church could only have been taken at a local level.

Opposition figures though dismissed this, saying that local provincial officials in the Khelvachauri district would have never dared to take this kind of decision without higher authorisation.

Archbishop of Batumi Dimitri Shiolashvili said on May 18 that the head of the Adjarian Autonomous Republic?s government, Levan Varshalomidze, had asked him to stop construction several days before the church was destroyed. The archbishop said that Varshalomidze had cited the central authorities? wish to use the same site for an alternative construction project.

President Saakashvili plans to meet lawmakers from the ruling party on Monday evening and the issue is expected to be high on the agenda.

Mayor of Tbilisi Gigi Ugulava told reporters on May 21 that President Saakashvili met with Patriarch of the Orthodox Church Illia II to discuss the issue.

?The both, the President and Patriarch, agreed that lack of communication and management on the ground [in the Khelvachauri district] is to blame for this [incident]. It will be much batter if local officials have better communication with the local clergy,? Ugulava said.

Meanwhile, local perish in the Khelvachauri district has already launched re-construction of the church.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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