On April 11, Georgian Dream leader Bidzina Ivanishvili met with the Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Ilia II. According to the press release issued by the Georgian Patriarchate, the discussion “among others, concerned problems of the people, and general socio-economic situation in the country.”
The Patriarchate said the sides highlighted “the great importance of family unity and right upbringing of future generations.” The government’s decision to allocate more resources to the field of education was also “welcomed.”
“His Holiness informed the guest about the ongoing works in the Holy Trinity Cathedral, financed by Cartu Bank (editor’s note: a bank owned by the GD leader); Bidzina Ivanishvili stated that he is ready to fully finance the Cathedral’s interior painting works,” the press release reads.
“At the end of the meeting, the Catholicos-Patriarch blessed Mr. Bidzina Ivanishvili and wished him success,” it said.
Ivanishvili, usually tight lipped about religious matters, made several highly publicized meetings with religious leaders recently, including in the western Georgian city of Zugdidi, where he pledged to donate “GEL 1 million and more” for completing the construction of an Orthodox cathedral there.
Opposition assessed the meeting as an attempt to buy votes ahead of the upcoming by-elections.
MP Salome Samadashvili of the United National Movement said: “Bidzina Ivanishvili thinks he can buy everyone and everything in the country, if necessary, including the Georgian church.” “This is an attempt to buy voters ahead of the upcoming elections,” Samadashvili added.
Levan Tarkhnishvili of the European Georgia, echoed Samadashvili’s points, saying “Ivanishvili feels he may lose [in the elections] and that this may put an end to his regime, so he is trying to resort to every possible measure, including openly bribing the Georgian church.”
GD lawmakers dismissed the allegations, with MP Rati Ionatamishvili saying Ivanishvili “has been implementing important [charity] projects for decades bringing benefits to the entire country and each of our citizens.” “They need to calm down, because attacking deeds that benefit Georgia, is equal to going against the country,” he noted.